Among a wealth of impressive philanthropic gifts in Colorado Springs’ history, the Myron Stratton Home ranks as one of the most unusual, as well as one of the longest-lived. The legacy of Winfield Scott Stratton (1848-1902), and named after his estranged father, the home nearly did not see the light of the world. Winfield Stratton was a carpenter-turned-multimillionaire, thanks to his discovery of gold in what became the Cripple Creek and Victor Mining District, but admittedly, he was burdened by the weight of his wealth.
After his premature death at 52, his will was contested by many—family, friends, the city, and the state. Even his mental competency was questioned. All this because it was his wish to apply the lion’s share of his fortune to fund “a free home for poor persons who are without means of support and who are physically unable by reason of old age, youth, sickness or other infirmity to earn a livelihood,“ rather than leaving his money to established private or public institutions, as was expected.
Naysayers predicted an influx of what they considered the least desirable subjects of society and the resulting reputation of Colorado Springs as “the poorhouse” of the nation. The legal hurdles took over a decade to clear, but the Myron Stratton Home finally opened its doors in the winter of 1913/14. Instead of living down to the low expectations of its opponents, the home became a beacon of hope for many, as well as a self-sustaining enterprise.
Mr. Stratton’s trustees invested in land south of town along South Nevada Avenue/Colorado Highway 115, land large enough to accommodate ranching, farming, a dairy, plus its own power plant. Each resident was expected to work according to her or his age and ability in order to contribute to the functioning of the home. The elderly resided in cottages, children lived in dormitories. They attended school on the premises, until the decision was made to enroll them in local public schools, and they were either taught a trade, or had their college education financed. As an outward expression of the home’s philosophy that emphasized a person’s dignity, residents had access to numerous pastime activities, including tennis, swimming, music, and books.
While the Myron Stratton Home has adapted to changing times and no longer cares for children, it continues to provide senior housing and services, according to Mr. Stratton’s original vision.
Generously Submitted by Tanja Britton, CSPM Volunteer Educator