Peak Past: ‘Sole’ History

January 28, 2021

"It's too bad," the guy said. "There's just so much history being lost."

We were standing in Saint Andrew's Church in Manitou Springs. It's the big red brick one, right on Main Street, built in 1905.

He had been working to recreate the building's story, but wasn’t getting much. 

That got me thinking. 

Society does a pretty good job of holding onto international history like the fall of the Berlin Wall. National history, like the Battle of Gettysburg is well covered too. 

But our track record isn't so hot when it comes to local history. And it's the good stuff. 

We walk right over it every day without even knowing it.

I call this "sole" history. It happened where the soles of our shoes strike the ground. And it's good for that other kind of soul, too, because it connects us to home and reminds us we're part of something bigger than ourselves. 

After that conversation in Saint Andrew's, I visited Denver's Union Station. I had heard of a hidden plaque there dedicated to William Jackson Palmer, our city's founder. 

An Amtrak employee told me where to go. It was underground, beneath the station.

When I got there, my jaw fell open.

Matt Cavanaugh
This plaque, located in Denver at Union Station, is one of five plaques commemorating Palmer. The others are located in Colorado College's Palmer Hall, the Mexican Railway building in Mexico City, Salt Lake Union Depot in Salt Lake City, UT, and Palmer Hall at Hampton Institute in Virginia.

It was like a gold-plated Wikipedia entry. Bigger than your TV, by far, to make room for all of Palmer's accomplishments. The focal point was a raised, 3D image of Palmer himself. The artist, Evelyn Beatrice Longman, signed the work in 1925.

As I stood there, under Union Station, I wondered: How many people walk in and out of this station every day and will never see this beautiful bit of history?

Until our next mountainside chat—be good, be well, and no matter what, climb on.

Peak Past (formerly Peak Perspectives) is a weekly segment written and voiced by Matt Cavanaugh, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army and a resident of Manitou Springs where he lives with his wife and two young children. Through his writing, Cavanuagh explores life in the Pikes Peak region, including the gradients and subtleties of our lives in the shadow of America's Mountain. 

You can find more work by Cavanaugh here.

KRCC's Abigail Beckman manages the "Peak Past" series. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of KRCC or Colorado Public Radio.

Peak Past is sponsored by Pueblo Recycle Works.

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