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On Walkabout At: The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum

Basic Information

  • Name: Pioneers Museum
  • Where: Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m
  • Cost: Free
  • More Information: Pioneers Museum website

Narrative

Over my lunch break during a recent work day I decided to go over to the Pioneers Museum located in downtown Colorado Springs and spend some time checking it out.


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The museum is located in the old historic El Paso County Courthouse building that was built in 1903:

Despite all the new buildings that have been built around this old courthouse I still think this is the nicest looking building in downtown.  Located in the front of the museum is a statue of Katharine Lee Bates, the poet and writer who was inspired to write “America the Beautiful” from the summit of Pikes Peak:

Her statue looks towards the newer and drab courthouse located across the street that is backdropped by the always beautiful Pikes Peak that had so inspired Bates:

So much of today’s modern architecture in my opinion is so drab and boring compared to older buildings like this old courthouse that still stands today.  Let me get off my soapbox and share this YouTube video with you about the museum:

The museum has two floors filled with 60,000 artifacts plus lots of pictures.  So it is possible to spend quite a bit of time here for those interested in reading about every artifact on display.  Since the museum was free I figured that if I didn’t have time to check everything out I could come back on another lunch break to finish seeing whatever I missed.  I ended up getting through most of the museum on my lunch break.  I started on the first floor which was filled with rooms with various photographs and memorabilia from Colorado Springs:

I enjoy looking at old photographs and the ones of Colorado Springs were quite interesting to see.  The growth of the city just in the past 20 years much less the past 100 has been amazing.  I found the second floor of the museum to be of the most interest because it has a lot more historical displays available for those who really want to learn more about the history of this fabulous city.  There are two ways to the 2nd floor, the first way is to take the staircase and the second way being to take a historic elevator that still works:

In a large hallway on the 2nd floor I saw a few wagons that early commuters in the city used to get around in:

For those who like guns there was a number of classic firearms on display as well:

In the middle room on the 2nd floor is where the old El Paso County Courtroom is located:

Around the courtroom on the 2nd floor is a number of other rooms that have been converted into museum display rooms.  One of these display rooms shows artifacts and historical pictures from Manitou Springs:

Since Manitou Springs has been a popular health resort area since the 1880’s, this meant that many doctors, dentists, and other medical practitioners set up shop in the city back then.  The museum had on display some of the tools these practitioners used with many of them looking medieval in nature even though these medical tools were in use just over a hundred years ago:

In another room there is a number of displays about the various people that helped found or shaped the character of the city.  The history of Colorado Springs can never be told without mentioning the town’s founder General William Jackson Palmer:

Palmer had made a fortune from the railroads in the Old West after serving as a decorated General during the Civil War.  Palmer was determined to make his home in the Old West and not only did he want to make a home there but an entire city as well.  In 1871 he bought the land at the base of Pikes Peak and began to plan a city he called Colorado Springs.  He designed a city with wide boulevards to accommodate future growth and sold large plots of land for homes to avoid urban congestion.  He also discouraged industrial development in the downtown area and planted lots of trees and created many parks to improve the quality of life for the city’s citizens.  He then offered free land to schools, libraries, and churches to encourage them to come to his dream city.  Since the days of William Palmer hundreds of thousands of people have continued to move to Colorado Springs where many of them would agree that Palmer succeeded in making a dream city.

Another well known personality in Colorado Springs was Helen Hunt Jackson:

Helen Hunt Jackson had a very tragic personal life that saw her husband and two sons die due to accidents and sickness.  She went into a deep depression and turned to writing to cure her sadness.  Eventually her health would decline as well and so she moved from New England to Colorado Springs for the fresh air and famed mineral springs of Manitou.  It is here she met her 2nd husband William Sharpless Jackson while visiting Seven Falls.  She would live in Colorado Springs for a number of years and write some of her most famous works here.  Of note was her writings defending the rights of Native-Americans that she had come to understand their plight while living in Colorado Springs.

The history of Colorado Springs would also not be complete without discussing the significant role that mining had on the city:

On the West side of Pikes Peak gold had been found in the area around Cripple Creek that started a Gold Rush to Pikes Peak in 1890.  This Gold Rush brought more people and money to Colorado Springs that further contributed to its growth.  The gold strikes around Cripple Creek also led to a number of locals becoming fabulously rich such as Spencer Penrose and W.S. Stratton who made significant economic and philanthropic contributions to the city that continue to this day.  For example the Broadmoor Hotel and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo are all legacies of Penrose.  Stratton after a 1896 fire that burned down Cripple Creek paid for a relief effort that provided food and shelter for the thousands of people left homeless by the fire.  He also funded a number of schools and a old age home that has caused his name to be associated with a number of public facilities in Colorado Springs to this day.

The final part of the history of Colorado Springs is the people that inhabited the region long before there ever was a city at the base of Pikes Peak, the Native-Americans:

The Colorado Springs region had long been home to a number of nomadic tribes such as the Ute, Cheyenne, Commanche, and others that wondered at the red rocks at the Garden of the Gods and drank water from the mineral springs of Manitou just like the American pioneers that would later remove them from the region would also do.

The museum actually has a very good display about the Native-Americans that once lived in the region that includes a number of artifacts and pictures:

One of the most famous Native-American chiefs that would sometimes bring his people to the Colorado Springs region was “Buckskin Charley” who took over as chief of the southern Ute tribe after the death of the legendary Chief Ouray:

The southern Utes were one of the tribes in the Old West that got along peacefully with American settlers.  He was the chief of his tribe for 56 years before his death at age 96 in 1936.  During his time as chief he would travel to Washington numerous times and met 7 different US Presidents and in 1890 Chief Buckskin Charley was presented the Peace Medal by President Benjamin Harrison.

Conclusion

For most visitors to Colorado Springs this museum will probably be of minimal interest compared to spending time checking out the major attractions in the area such as the Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak.  However, I do recommend that everyone that lives in the Colorado Springs area to go and check out this museum.  The city has a very interesting and colorful history that began with its Native-American past and was continued by the early American pioneers which can all be learned about at this wonderful museum.

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