COBWEB CORNERS: The Balanced Rock ‘war’ winds down

By Mel McFarland

       In 1920, the Balanced Rock “war” was almost over. After more than 30 years, residents of Manitou, Arensdale and West Colorado Springs had long since tired of hearing Paul Goerke's rants and threats about hiding the attraction. As a reminder, the rock was not yet part of the Garden of the Gods city park. Goerke owned it.
       Before the advent of individual film cameras, such as the Kodak, photographers in little stands took all the pictures. William Hook and Joseph Heistand were two Manitou photographers who had an agreement with Goerke to use Balanced Rock as a photo location. Goerke made a tidy income from these pictures. In those days, tourists took tours sponsored by hotels through the region, and most visited the rock and rested their horses or mules.
       But as the years went by, most tours no longer stopped at Balanced Rock, mainly to avoid Goerke's fee. Also, when the automobile came along, it was about the same time George Eastman, founder of the Kodak company, began selling a lot of individual cameras. People could take their own "snapshots."
       You may remember from an earlier column (June 9, 2011) that Goerke was threatening to build a fence around his rock, and newspapers from that time say that he did.
       He even went so far as to build his own toll road. It was not really successful, as the best rocks could be seen from a distance. He tried to sell the road to Manitou and Colorado Spring and both said no. His fence appeared after one of the phases of the dispute. People did not like that, nor the prospect of more fences blocking other rocks.
       In the 1920s, the rock was opened to the public. Now I am still reading the old newspapers, so I suppose as I read along I will discover more about how that happened. So, please, if you know the details already, do not ruin the suspense!