COBWEB CORNERS: When Teddy Roosevelt came to town
By Mel McFarland
In 1903 there was a presidential visit to our area. It was Theodore Roosevelt's third or fourth trip to the Pikes Peak Region. The president's train arrived from Denver. It was made up of five cars, a baggage car, a baggage car with a smoking car section (mainly for newsmen traveling with the president), and three Pullman cars - one used exclusively by the president's party. The Colorado Midland even dolled up a special engine for the occasion.
It was part of a swing through the West. High on the list of activities, was a planned visit to Cripple Creek. The group spent their time in Colorado Springs at the new Antler's Hotel, even though on his previous visits Roosevelt had stayed with friends on North Cascade Avenue. From the front of the hotel, Roosevelt addressed the gathered public: "My friends and fellow citizens: It is a great pleasure to have the chance of being with you again. I know your state and I know your city well. And I am glad to have the chance of returning here." Roosevelt had visited our area almost annually since 1898. In earlier visits, he had hunted big game across various parts of the state.
It is said that the connection between the name "Teddy" and the Teddy Bear results from his hunting for bear in Colorado. This trip, however, was not a hunting trip. The large crowd that gathered heard him talk on a variety of subjects, including benefits for veterans of the Spanish-American War. After several days in the area he returned to his train, traveled to Pueblo, and continued on to many locations through out the West. This was one of his last visits to the Pikes Peak Region, in May, 1903.
Only a week later, things were quite different when a fire on the west slope of Cheyenne Mountain threatened to spread into several areas. At one point, it was thought the fire would burn westward toward Cripple Creek. No sooner had the fire shifted, when it was blown eastward, threatening land owned by prominent lumber interests. It was feared the fire might burn over the top of the mountain and down into Fountain, when it shifted again, this time northward. Fortunately the weather changed and rain and snow doused the flames.