Colorado Springs has a rich and vibrant history stretching back hundreds of years. The area was first inhabited by Native American tribes such as the Ute, Cheyenne, and Arapaho. These tribes lived in the area near Pikes Peak, now known as the Garden of the Gods. This area was declared sacred to the tribes, and was a place where they would meet in peace and bathe in the mineral springs of the area.
The land was then under French claim in 1682 as a part of La Louisane, and was claimed under Spain’s Treaty of Fontainbleau of 1762. In 1803, the United States then purchased the area as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
In 1806, American explorer Zebulon Pike came through the area on his expedition, giving name to Pikes Peak. He and his team of men tried to summit the mountain, but his team was not geared or prepared for such a climb. They made it up to Mt. Rosa before turning back after enduring waist-high snow and going at least two days without food.
In 1859, the first settlement in the area, Colorado City, was formed. The settlement served as a supply camp to the gold and silver mines that drove much travel and settlement to the area. The city was a rough and tumble frontier town, full of saloons and brawls and gun fights.
In 1869, General William Jackson Palmer visited the area and fell in love with the beautiful scenery and land. He envisioned a vacation destination town, a “playground for the rich,” nestled in the shadow of Pike’s Peak. The following year, he founded the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, the first narrow-gauge line in Colorado. The rail company came to the region, where Palmer had purchased land along the route.
Palmer’s plans for a resort community to rival the elegant resorts of the east soon came to fruition. In 1871, a town called “Fountain Colony” came into being. By the following year, the town incorporated as Colorado Springs.
According to the “Palmer Pattern of Responsibility,” Colorado Springs had superb city planning and included plots for schools, churches, libraries, parks and a college. An effort was made to separate industry and intemperance to Colorado City across the tracks, and keep Colorado Springs a luxury destination.
The dry, mild climate and sunny conditions of the city made it a historic destination place not only for the rich, but also for those with poor health. People with tuberculosis in particular often sought out residence in Colorado Springs.
During the 1890’s into the turn of the century, gold was discovered in Pikes Peak, leading to one of the richest gold strikes in American history. Population in the area swelled, and Colorado Springs earned the nicknames “City of Millionaires” and “Little London”, reflecting the wealthy residents as well as the plethora of tudor-style housing that cropped up in the town.
One such millionaire, Spencer Penrose, established the Pikes Peak Highway, the Cheyenne Mountain Highway, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Will Rogers Shrine and the Broadmoor Hotel. This was the age of the elegant hotel, and many rich and titled people came to the Rocky Mountains and especially Colorado Springs to vacation, fox hunt and play polo.
Also during this time, Katharine Lee Bates, inspired by a summit trip to Pikes Peak, wrote America the Beautiful.
The 1900’s and Beyond
Since then, the area has also become known for a strong military presence. Following World War II, Fort Carson was established here, and in 1954 the Air Force began construction on the United States Air Force Academy, completing it by 1958.
Colorado Springs is home to many major military installations today, such as Fort Carson, Peterson Air Force Base, the US Space Command, Shcriever Air Force Base and the afore mentioned United States Air Force Academy.
In addition to the military presence, the United States Olympic Committee created an Olympic Training Grounds in the city in 1978. Athletes travel from around the world to visit and train there.
Today, Colorado Springs is supported by a young, educated work force. It is home to a growing military and high tech economy, has beautiful weather, and the unparalleled scenery and beauty of the Rockies.