Hundreds of years ago, the first inhabitants of Colorado Springs were the American Indian people. Tribes including the Ute, Cheyenne, and Arapaho gathered at the base of Pikes Peak, near the area now known as Garden of the Gods Park. The springs and waterfalls located there were believed to be a spiritual place.
The founding of Colorado City in 1859 marked the first settlement in Colorado Springs history. It served as a territorial capitol for a short period as well as a supply camp for miners traveling in search of gold, west of Denver. In 1869, the town of Colorado Springs itself was established by General William Jackson Palmer, a Civil War hero from Pennsylvania. When he first visited the area, he immediately fell in love with the enticing scenery. The town was built along several railroads, including the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. These trains brought in tourists and visitors from all across the world.
The scenic beauty was not the only attraction of the area. Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs boasted sunny conditions and a dry, mild climate. These surroundings were popular for people suffering from poor health and various diseases, particularly tuberculosis. The plentiful sunshine, high altitude, mineral waters, and dry climate made the area both a popular tourist destination and a health resort.
At the turn of the 19th century, miners struck gold on the western slope of Pikes Peak. Immediately, more than 50,000 people moved to the Cripple Creek Mining District. Because this was one of the richest gold strikes in American history, Colorado Springs was soon called “the city of millionaires”. Spencer Penrose, one of the millionaires who made his fortune in Cripple Creek, used his new-found wealth to build the Pikes Peak and Cheyenne Mountain Highways. He is also known for his establishment of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Will Rogers Shrine, and The Broadmoor Hotel.
Colorado Springs is also the birthplace and inspiration for the country’s most famous poem and song, “America the Beautiful”, penned by Katharine Lee Bates after a trip to the summit of Pikes Peak. Like many previous visitors, Bates was struck by the beauty of the area and the way it displayed the wonder of the United States as a whole.
The U.S. Army opened up Camp Carson in the 1940s, marking the start of a strong military presence in the area. Today, Colorado Springs is home to many major military facilities including Peterson Air Force Base, Fort Carson, the U.S. Space Command, Schriever Air Force Base, NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) and the United States Air Force Academy.
Colorado Springs has truly made its mark in the country as both a historical site and a modern influence. Various major universities are located in Colorado Springs, including the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Colorado Technical University and Pikes Peak Community College. It is also known for the first US Olympic Training Center as well as the El Paso County Courthouse. Athletes preparing for the Olympics, Paralympics, and Pan American Games often stay at the training center for a period of months or years. Others visit periodically for training camps, coaching, or physical testing. The high altitude of Colorado Springs is thought to improve training effectiveness. The training center is a popular tourist spot as well.
From its mining heritage to its military influence, Colorado Springs carries a vast, rich history. To this day, gold is still mined in Cripple Creek, and visitors can see the surviving structures in the area, along with the mansions that bear witness to the stories of the past.