Colorado Springs — Where It All Began 150 Years Ago

July 29, 2021
Matt Cavanaugh
This marker, at the southeast corner of Pikes Peak and Cascade Avenues in downtown Colorado Springs, is at the very center of the city.

The following is part of KRCC's 'Peak Past' essay series.

It's not hard to find. In fact, there’s a marker, a relatively plain one, at the southeast corner of Pikes Peak and Cascade Avenues in downtown Colorado Springs. If you’ve ever been to the Antlers Hotel, you were just west of it. If you’re sitting at Phantom Canyon Brewery, just look across the street to the south.  

That’s Ground Zero for Colorado Springs.

All distances are measured from there. So if you head north on Cascade Avenue, those are the “north” blocks, if you head east on Pikes Peak Avenue, those are the “east” blocks. 

Many global cities, including Paris, Washington, New York, and Los Angeles have these officially-designated center points.

Ours is Pikes Peak and Cascade. 

A newspaper clipping with a story about the stake marking the center of Colorado Springs. Courtesy Pikes Peak Library District.

And so it was, at that point, 150 years ago this week, that the first survey stake for Fountain Colony (which was named for Fountain Creek) was placed in the ground. William Jackson Palmer, railroad man and Civil War veteran, planned the city from the very start. In the words of local historian Matt Mayberry, “Palmer used the area’s enticing scenery, nearby mineral springs, and other amenities to attract residents.” 

In the words of local historian Matt Mayberry, “Palmer used the area’s enticing scenery, nearby mineral springs, and other amenities to attract residents.” 

Palmer wasn’t actually there when that first stake went in the ground. He was away on business. So, he technically missed the birth of Colorado Springs, but he was in on this place from the conception.

For me, it’s easier to love something when you know where its heart is.

As Colorado Springs turns 150 years old this week, I hope you’ll go to the place where it all started. Stand on the spot where it all began, all those births, all those families, all those people, all that struggle, all this place, where it all began and for a second you might just feel in your bones what the word “sesquicentennial” really means.

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 Gold Hill Mesa.

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