COBWEB CORNERS: General Grant pays a call

By Mel McFarland

       On July 16, 1880, former United States President and Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant arrived in Colorado Springs. He rode in from New Mexico on a Denver & Rio Grande train that included a specially prepared narrow-gauge Pullman.
       On his arrival, Grant was treated to a ride on the first D&RG train to Manitou Springs. Track crews had just finished their repair of the line. A flood several days before had washed out the track, about where the Red Rocks shopping center now stands.
       The new station at Manitou was not quite ready for passengers, but the Grants were taken to Manitou founder Dr. William Bell's nearby Briarhurst mansion. It was Grant's second visit to the area, having visited in 1875 when he was president and the area was still under planning.
       He was impressed by the changes in 1880. Dr. Bell escorted General and Mrs. Grant to their accommodations in his Mansions Hotel. A few days later Grant left Colorado Springs for Leadville, where his son, U.S. Grant Jr., had an interest in banking. Grant's train was one of the first over the tracks up the Arkansas to Leadville. The party then made its way to Gunnison and the San Juan country and back into New Mexico.
       Passenger rail service started to Manitou Springs on July 27, 1880. The Manitou area was finally ready to be fully developed. Interestingly, the little Manitou Springs depot started off as the design for a chapel. An English church had been copied for Mrs. Bell and was to serve as the Episcopalians' chapel in Manitou. Once the decision was made to use it as the station, a small frame chapel was built near the Manitou House. The quaint railroad station, Manitou House, the larger Mansions, the Mellen home, and Bell's new Briarhurst all added to the spa environment.
       Eventually, the depot became the office for the Villa Motel. The depot was torn down in the 1960s, but some of the stones are in an office building on south Cascade Avenue in Colorado Springs.