Gen. Palmer establishes a town and a college
In 1871, General William Jackson Palmer, founder of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, laid out the city of Colorado Springs along his new line from Denver. Palmer envisioned a place of beauty, culture, and substance that would benefit both the body and spirit of its residents. Twenty acres in the townsite set aside for a college represented an integral part of Palmer’s plan.
Colorado College held its first classes on May 6, 1874, only three years after Palmer founded the city and two years before Colorado became a state. From the moment of its inception, Colorado College was a coeducational institution, “open to both sexes and all races.” Twenty-five students were in attendance, among them 13 men and 12 women in the first class.
In the early years, Colorado College gathered a small faculty whose roots ran to traditional New England scholarship. The college struggled for financial viability early on, surviving through the generosity of wealthy eastern friends. Under the leadership of President Edward P. Tenney (1876-84), the school gained its first permanent building, Cutler Hall, an 1880 stone structure designed by the nationally prominent architecture firm of Peabody and Stearns. All of the college functions took place in its classrooms, laboratories, offices, and a small auditorium.
In the depths of the Great Depression, Colorado College built a long-awaited chapel, Shove Memorial Chapel, which is considered one of the finest examples of Norman Romanesque architecture in the state. The completion of Palmer Hall in 1904 capped a construction-filled period and provided the campus with one of its best-loved landmarks. Thousands of students have passed under the peachblow sandstone arches of the central entrance and been inspired by the carved inscription overhead: “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”
The college in recent times
Colorado College is now ranked among the top 25 liberal arts colleges in the nation (in a field of about 500 colleges), and is distinctive for its Block Plan. Instead of taking multiple classes at a time, CC students study one class at a time for three and a half weeks, allowing for intensive work with faculty, and opportunities for hands-on, experiential field study locally and globally. Colorado College was the first college to create and adopt a block approach; there are now a handful of colleges and universities in the U.S., Canada, and Australia that use a block schedule.
The 99-acre campus is located in the heart of Colorado Springs, and serves approximately 2,100 students from Colorado, the nation, and the world.
Generously Submitted by: Colorado College, Office of Communications