COBWEB CORNERS: Some Manitou history

By Mel McFarland

       In the 1920s, land was given to Manitou Springs for a city park by the son of William A. Bell, who had been an associate of General Palmer and major supporter of the development of Manitou.
       The land adjoined the property that Bell owned in Manitou called Briarhurst. It was outside Manitou when Bell bought it, part of the property owned by Henry Esser, an early rancher in the area. The town of Manitou envisioned a park that would run along Fountain Creek from Soda Springs Park, west of its downtown. In the end only parts of the idea made it to reality. Just east of downtown is another portion of this plan, Monument Park. It is a popular site, used for art fairs and events like the fruitcake toss!
       Most of the land along the creek east of Briarhurst sat dormant, except one spot that has become quite popular. Right next to the US 24 bridge over Manitou Avenue is the swimming pool and Schryver Park, built in 1971. Not too far away, on the other side of US 24, is an entrance to the Garden of the Gods. The property Bell donated has had portions of it sold off, but this is a nice surviving reminder.
       Some of you may remember this. The pool building originally had a sliding roof. It was designed to be open when the weather was nice. The mechanism used parts from the cog railway. In the pool's early days, the roof was opened and closed so often the parts wore out. It was decided, rather than to pay the cost of replacing the parts regularly, to just keep it closed.
       Manitou used to have multiple railroad and streetcar tracks. The Denver and Rio Grande train station was built in 1880 to serve Manitou. It was where the Villa Motel sits now. The Midland tracks were on the other side of Manitou Avenue, and the street car tracks were on the north side of the Rio Grande's. In the 1920s until about World War II, a miniature railway operated near the park west of Briarhurst.
       To find out more Manitou history, you can visit the new Heritage Center, just west of the Business of Arts Center, across from the steam engine!