Where History Comes to Life
Colorado City (now Old Colorado City) was established in 1859 during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush as a supply town and commercial staging area. Miners would buy supplies in town and then make their way up Ute Pass to try their luck. It was in Kansas Territory at the time, but became the capitol of Colorado Territory in 1861.
Its status as capitol was short lived, primarily because legislators had to meet in the capitol and Colorado City didn’t have any place for them to stay. The legislators didn’t want to camp and thus they voted to adjourn and reconvene in Denver.
Colorado City did have better luck serving as the county seat of El Paso County. It held that position until 1873 when it was moved to Colorado Springs.
A study in contrasts, Colorado Springs was established in 1871 just a few miles to the east. Its founder meant for it to be a cultural center for the region and that’s what it became. When a rich store of gold was discovered on the western slope of Pikes Peak in the 1890s, miners would flock to Colorado City to buy supplies and spend their money in the saloons and brothels, but if they struck it rich, they generally built homes in Colorado Springs.
Nonetheless, Colorado City did its share of growing during the 1890s. General William Jackson Palmer’s Denver & Rio Grande Railroad went through here and Colorado City became a center of industry and gold ore processing.
While Colorado Springs was a center of Victorian culture and civilization, Colorado City remained a Wild West town during this period. It boasted more than 20 saloons, gaming parlors and brothels. Respectable people kept to the north side of West Colorado Avenue where the banks, assayers and opera house stood, but underground tunnels provided even respectable gentlemen discreet access to the rowdy south side of the street.
Colorado City remained independent, fueled by industry, entertainment and gold until 1913, when Prohibition hit this town of saloons hard. In 1917, with no economic recovery in sight, residents voted to become part of Colorado Springs.
Though no longer a town of its own, Old Colorado City has survived as a center of retail, restaurants and commerce. Buildings changed hands and housed a variety of businesses and banks over the years. Today, Old Colorado City is a historic district, tourist attraction and center of entertainment for families and history buffs.