Old Colorado City is a historic area with a small-town vibe and lovely architecture.
I recommend starting your visit at the Old Colorado City History Center & Museum. (One South 24th Street, Colorado Springs). The museum is housed in what was formerly the First Baptist Church of Colorado City. It is a Queen Anne-style church built in 1890 and was home to several congregations before being purchased by the Old Colorado City Historical Society in 1992.
The admission is free, and you can tour it in under an hour while learning some fascinating details about early settlers and western life in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
According to the museum's brochure, (Old) Colorado City was the first permanent town in the Pikes Peak Region. It was home to farmers, ranchers, and outfitters who sold clothing, supplies, and equipment to people heading west to find gold.
At the turn of the nineteenth century, the south side of Colorado Avenue was an active "red light district" according to museum staff, and housed numerous brothels and saloons. The north side of the street had businesses like mercantile stores, barbershops, and the post office.
If a citizen wanted to enter the saloon or brothel undetected, there were tunnels under the street. The individual entered the barbershop, walked down to the basement, and traveled through the tunnel to the other side. These tunnels are the archaic version of browsing the internet through a VPN.
The tunnels were just one of the fascinating tidbits I learned from Leo, one of the docents and a published author, during my tour.
The museum exhibits are housed in one large room (the church sanctuary) and showcase vintage toys, housewares, clothing, and a traditional Victorian parlor.
I learned about the Cog Rail Toboggan - a precariously fast and notoriously difficult to control means of descent from Pikes Peak. I think I will stick with the train!
Some fascinating characters lived in (Old) Colorado City including Prairie Dog O'Bryne who drove a carriage pulled by two elk. The elk were named Thunder and Buttons, and there is a restaurant & bar named after them at 2415 West Colorado Avenue. You can read more about the story here.
After touring the exhibit room, take a moment to browse the bookstore with a large selection of historical reads, many by local authors. And, stop to chat with the museum staff who are extremely knowledgeable, and passionate, about their town's history.
In addition to the regular exhibits, the museum hosts programs and events which you can read about on their website. One upcoming event is the Arts & Crafts Winter Market on November 27, 2021, from 9 am to 3 pm. This indoor market will have products for purchase from local artists and food trucks in the parking lot.
Please note the museum hours. In the winter (November - May), they are open Tuesday - Saturday from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. They are closed during inclement weather.
When you depart the museum, don't forget to pick up both the historical and modern map of the downtown area. It is fun to see what businesses or sites previously occupied the space on Colorado Ave. For example, "The Honey Cottage" was initially a horse alley, an off-road place to hitch your horse to keep the streets clean of animal waste.
When you exit the museum, walk across the street to Bancroft Park where you will find Dr. James Garvin's cabin, one of the earliest structures in (Old) Colorado City. There are information placards in front of the building explaining its history. It was built in 1859 and has been used for a variety of purposes including being a pioneer county office building, a Chinese laundry with an opium den in the basement, and an antique shop.
In 1927, to prevent it from being torn down, Spencer Penrose moved the cabin to the Broadmoor golf course. After that, it spent a few years in Denver and then returned to its original home in Old Colorado City in 1961.
From Bancroft Park, continue walking west on Colorado Avenue. You will pass the Michael Garman Museum & Gallery. Mr. Garman was a talented local sculptor who sadly died on October 8th of this year. His passing is a tremendous loss for this community.
As you walk through the downtown area, you will see specialty shops, boutiques, art galleries, and a wide assortment of dining options. It is a perfect blend of history and charm made even more fascinating after visiting the Old Colorado City Museum.
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