Pikes Peak History, A National Treasure

photo by Bob Kane design photography
photo by Bob Kane design photography


By Beth Dodd





The Pikes Pike Region has dozens of locations on the National Register of Historic Places and three National Historic Districts. You have probably visited some of them and never heard of others. But what exactly is the National Register any way?

The National Register of Historic Places is the fed’s way to officially recognize a historic site, building, or district. It can include individual buildings or entire towns, or even specific objects like ancient rock art. To get listed, a place is evaluated for its relationship to historic events or people, its architectural significance, or its future research potential.

Owners of a property on the National Register or in a National Historic District may qualify for tax incentives to offset the cost of preserving their property. They also have better access to certain pots of grant money. Designation can help to attract tourism, but Historic Places do not have to be open to the public. Today there are more than 1,400 listings in Colorado.

Preservation of a registered property is not guaranteed, but in some states and municipalities there are local laws that protect listed properties. In fact, as of 1999 a total of 982 properties had been removed from the list. Most of them were destroyed. Listing does not restrict how private property owners can use or alter their property. Anyone can nominate a place for a historic registry listing, but a nomination cannot be finalized without the owner’s consent.

The National Register of Historic Places is well represented around the Pikes Peak Region. Teller County has ten sites. The first one created was the Cripple Creek Historic District, which was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1961 and a National Historic District in 1966.

As you can guess, Cripple Creek is significant because of its gold rush history. Tens of thousands of people from around the world poured into the area in the 1890s to swell the population of the World’s Greatest Gold Camp. Important historic properties in the district include the Midland Terminal Train Depot, the Teller County Courthouse, the Imperial Hotel, the Old Homestead, St. Paul’s Catholic Church, and the old El Paso County Hospital.

Downtown Victor is also a National Historic District, and is an authentic historic gold rush treasure trove since it has escaped the widespread remodeling that altered many old buildings in Cripple Creek. On Victor’s main street, you can close your eyes and imagine yourself surrounded by dusty miners and long skirted ladies. The historic district is from Diamond down to Portland, and from Second Street over to Fifth Street.

Some of the important historical structures in Victor include the Western Union Miners Hall, Victor City Hall, the Gold Coin Mine and Gold Coin Club, the Victor Daily Record building, and Saint Victor’s Church. In fact, many buildings in the area are individually listed on the National Historic Register, such as the Victor Hotel, the Midland Terminal Railroad Depot in Victor, Goldfield City Hall, and Stratton’s Independence Mine and Mill.

On the other side of Pikes Peak, Manitou Springs started as a Victorian resort where people from around the world came to sip or dip in the fizzy mineral water. Today it has a long list of National Historic Places; the Barker House Hotel, the Briarhurst, the Cliff House, Crystal Valley Cemetery, the First Congregational Church of Manitou, the Keithly Log Cabin District, the Manitou Springs Bath House, the Manitou Springs bridges, Miramont, the Wheeler Bank Building, and even the Manitou Springs Post Office. They finally just designated Downtown Manitou Springs as a National Historic District.

A handful of other historic listings are scattered around the area. In Florissant there are three official Historic Places; the Hornbek House at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, the Florissant School, and Twin Creek Ranch. The Eastholme Hotel in Cascade and the Manitou Experimental Forest Station north of Woodland Park are also listed.

Many dedicated local historical groups can help you discover the stories of these fascinating properties and the people that made them important. In Cripple Creek, the Cripple Creek District Museum, the Outlaws and Lawmen Jail Museum, the Cripple Creek Heritage Center, the Molly Kathleen Gold Mine, and the Old Homestead are all great places to dig into the past. You can also read the historic markers along Bennett Avenue.

In Victor, the Victor Lowell Thomas Museum and the Victor Agriculture & Mining Museum are the gatekeepers to local history, and there are historic markers to read. Pick up a walking tour map at the VLT Museum. Also watch for tours of privately owned local historic properties occasionally offered through the museum. If you like to mix history with hiking, explore the Vindicator Valley Trail.

In Florissant, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument and the Pikes Peak Heritage Society can introduce you to local history. The Ute Pass Historical Society & Pikes Peak Museum is the place to start in Woodland Park. The Manitou Springs Heritage Center and Miramont Castle in Manitou Springs are also all great places to explore the past.