Annexation of Colorado City - CSPM

Annexation of Colorado City

In 1861, the Colorado Territorial Legislature met briefly in Colorado City, found the accommodations not to their liking, and promptly adjourned. Nevertheless, a cabin said to have been “the first territorial capitol building” was put on exhibit – and still is. Unfortunately, according to trusted historical sources – it’s just not true. However, the colorful history of Colorado City prior to its voluntary annexation by Colorado Springs in 1917, is preserved in a charming historic district that continues to draw tourists and locals alike.

– From the CSPM Curator of History

Colorado City was the first permanent settlement in El Paso County. Anthony Bott and a group of settlers established a trade supply post in 1859 along Fountain Creek. With no authority, they began selling lots through the “El Paso Claim Club.” By the winter of 1859-1860, upwards of 100 log cabins had been built and the town reached the peak of its prosperity. An 1863 census recorded 300 people in Colorado City, and it continued to dwindle so that by 1870 there were only 81 residents.

After Colorado Springs was founded in 1871, Colorado City remained outside of the city limits and was therefore exempt from its temperance laws. The town gained a reputation for saloons and gambling, outlawed in Colorado Springs. This reputation grew as the region industrialized and Colorado City became the working-class neighborhood for heavy industries such as the Colorado Midland Railroad that arrived in 1887, and then the four gold refining mills that processed ore from Cripple Creek. Adolphus Busch also started an early brewery in Colorado City, as well as the Colorado City Glass Company to make bottles. Immigrant labor poured into Colorado City to work the factories and railyards.

Nationwide temperance movements were gaining strength in the early 20th century to combat alcoholism among workers in the industrial cities. Colorado City grew tired of its raucous reputation and voted to go dry in 1913. In April, 1917, citizens voted to annex Colorado City into Colorado Springs. The rationale was the efficiencies that would result in lower costs and better public services, particularly for water infrastructure, the lower property taxes that would result, and the prestige for Colorado City residents to associate with Colorado Springs, which had seen unprecedented levels of wealth generated from Cripple Creek gold mining.

The annexation occurred on June 10, 1917. However, a small outlier remained outside of city limits. In response to the 1913 Colorado City vote to outlaw liquor, 37 west side residents voted to incorporate a new town of Ramona on August 22, 1913, located just north of today’s Thorndale Park on 24th Street. They immediately approved liquor sales and the small town prospered from its saloons. Ramona suffered the moral outrage of regional leaders, who refused water services and led gambling and prostitution raids in 1914. Statewide prohibition took effect in 1916, forcing Ramona to shut its saloons. It dis-incorporated in 1947 and was annexed in 1955.

Generously Submitted by Dr. John Harner, Professor of Geography & Environmental Studies, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

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