When the Garden of the Gods HAD a beer garden
Brook Cruz, a Garden of the Gods interpreter for nearly eight years, shared her research into the park's past in a presentation titled “The Growth of a Garden” Sept. 14 at the Old Colorado City History Center.
She freely admitted that some informational gaps exist and asked for feedback from other historical researchers.
For example, it is known that the family of Charles Elliot Perkins made the famous “Christmas gift” of 240 acres to the city in 1909, enabling the initial establishment of Garden of the Gods as a city park. But Cruz expressed frustration at not being able to find out who had sold Perkins his land in the first place.
Cruz's talk started with the settlers who came to the region in 1859 and discussed the various people in the years that followed who owned parts of the present-day Garden. Because some of them saw its beauty in a commercial way, it was never a certainty that the Garden would end up as a park, she made clear.
A key figure behind the scenes was Colorado Springs founder William Palmer. Living just to the north at Glen Eyrie, he took an interest in what happened to the neighboring area with eye-pleasing red rock spires.
It was Palmer, co-founder of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, who talked Perkins, president of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, into buying his property in the first place. Perkins actually planned to build a home there but it never came to pass, Cruz pointed out.
It was also Palmer who purchased the present-day Rock Ledge Ranch in 1900 from the Chambers family and built the Orchard House on it. Before that, Palmer bought out Edwin “Fatty” Rice, who in the 1890s had a roadside stand and beer garden just east of the Kissing Camels.
At this juncture in Cruz' presentation, referring back to the famous 1859 quote from Rufus Cable that the area was too nice for a beer garden and instead should be a “Garden of the Gods,” she observed, that (at least for a time) “I guess you could say that it did become a beer garden.”
The property Rice had owned was actually in a platted area called “Garden City.” Palmer eventually owned two thirds of the lots. It never was built.
In the years since the Perkins bequest, Colorado Springs has added to the Garden, little by little, until today it is 1,323.34 acres, with 20.6 miles of trails, Cruz reported.
Even as it has grown, she added, the city continues to operate it in the spirit of Perkins, who had insisted that it remain free to the public, with alcohol disallowed and no man-made buildings.
Westside Pioneer article