New York native Cassius Ayers Hibbard opened C.A. Hibbard and Co., a dry goods store at 17 South Tejon in 1892. It was a prosperous, optimistic time in the city’s history, thanks in part to the Cripple Creek gold rush. By 1894, there were seven stores selling “dry goods and notions” on S. Tejon between Pikes Peak and Huerfano (now Colorado), as well as one around the corner on Pikes Peak.
Judging by advertisements in the 1894 Colorado Springs City Directory, Giddings Brothers may have led the pack. Located next door to Hibbard’s at 21 S. Tejon, the firm seems to have been aggressive and agile. One ad trumpeted “The most complete line of underwear and hosiery in the city.”
Yet Hibbard must have been just as aggressive and agile. Thirty-five years later, Hibbard’s and Giddings were the only local survivors, but completion was still intense. Mom & Pop Dry Goods stores had been replaced by well-capitalized department stores in spacious downtown buildings. J.C. Penney had a store at 19 N. Tejon, Kaufman’s was at 114 S. Tejon, and Giddings had opened a “Modern Department Store” at 101 N. Tejon.
But C.A. Hibbard’s 1924 building was a retail paradise, five stories of great stuff for sale – dry goods, clothing, cosmetics and furniture, as well as “notions” (needles, thread, wool, collar stays and the like). Designed by prominent Springs architect Thomas Barber, the once ultra-modern building slowly morphed into a treasured historic structure. As its downtown competitors closed or moved to the suburbs, Hibbard’s hung on valiantly until the late Ralph Hibbard finally bowed to the inevitable and closed the store in 1996. By then it was the last independent department store in Colorado. The building still stands, housing a restaurant on the ground level and offices in the upper floors.
Many longtime residents have fond memories of the noble old store. The pneumatic tubes, the oak display cases, the birdcage elevators, the ageless ladies who worked as sales clerks…alas, all gone.
Hibbard’s wasn’t just another retail business, though. It was a multigenerational local endeavor, a family project launched by C.A. Hibbard, and passed on to his descendants. And just as the store supported hard-working family members for 104 years, the family gave back and helped anchor our community. A retail dynasty? Yup, and they’re not finished.
Ralph’s daughter Carrie Hibbard Baker became the co-owner of Terra Verde, an upscale women’s clothing store at 208 N. Tejon in January. Not the best timing perhaps, but she certainly has the right DNA for the job!
Generously Submitted by John Hazlehurst, CSBJ Columnist & Historian