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Colorado Springs History

Once, the Ute, Cheyenne, Arapaho and other Plains tribes were the only visitors to the Pikes Peak region, and they considered it a sacred place. Later, trappers and miners would follow in the footsteps of such explorers as Lt. Zebulon Pike. When Civil War hero Gen. William Jackson Palmer got into the railroad business, he set his sights on Colorado as a place to break new ground. He established the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad and founded Colorado Springs as his home in 1871. Palmer planned a downtown with wide streets, numerous parks and trees, turning barren prairie into a garden. A Quaker, Palmer built Colorado Springs as a cultural oasis, partly to offset the nearby, rowdy Colorado City, which had saloons and brothels. Manitou Springs, still farther west and at the base of Pikes Peak, had already become a healing destination because of its mineral springs. It also served as a jumping-off point for those headed up Ute Pass in search of riches. With miners pouring through on their way to the Cripple Creek and Victor gold fields, Colorado Springs grew, attracting other entrepreneurs, such as Spencer Penrose, who built The Broadmoor. It opened in 1918, and was then (and still is) one of the world’s grandest resort hotels. He and wife Julie established the El Pomar Foundation, which remains the region’s largest philanthropy. The pursuit of gold eventually faded, but the search for health cures continued. In the late 1800s, tuberculosis patients came to cure their illness in the dry, sunny climate. Many of them improved, and stayed on to become important members of the community. The military began moving in during the 1940s and bolstered the city’s growth in a whole new way. And tourism has always been a mainstay of the local economy. Because of its temperate climate, visitors arrive year-round. The city also pursued “clean” industry in the 1970s and beyond, bringing in micro-technology companies and a number of company headquarters. Clean air, clean water and quality of life continue to draw new residents daily.