COBWEB CORNERS: The first Pikes Peak Hill Climb (almost)
By Mel McFarland
There is a lot of discussion these days about the Pikes Peak Hill Climb and what effect paving the road might have. You might like to hear about the first car to make it to the top of Pikes Peak. It went up by way of the railroad tracks in 1901. The road up from Cascade was suitable for mule-drawn carriages, but a fragile auto was not likely to make it. Within a few years there were more and more attempts to get an automobile up the mountain. Still the road from Cascade was best done by carriage.
In 1904, a promoter from Denver contacted the Colorado Springs Automobile club about putting together a race up the mountain. The group regularly had special events to promote the sport of automobiling in the area. Yes, cars in those time were largely seen as a hobby or a sport. The club had talked about organizing a September trip from Colorado Springs to Woodland Park to take in the fall colors. The promoter suggested that they might get more interest from Easterners if they raced their automobiles up Pikes Peak!
The promoter was connected with the Anthony Motor and Manufacturing Company, one of the many manufacturing businesses that were looking at building cars. He made a trip to a show in Chicago, where he spread word of the event. Over the summer, the plans were formulated. A set of rules were established and distributed throughout the country. The potential for famous participants was starting to catch the public's attention. By late August, a number of entries had been received, but no firm date had been set. During September, many of the larger manufacturing companies were approached about participating in the event, but most declined the challenge. A date was finally set in October.
Those of us with knowledge of the area can recognize the problems ahead. Indeed, once October arrived, so did bad weather. The race never happened. It would take Spencer Penrose about 10 years to sort things out. He rebuilt the road, making it more usable for automobiles. The race was originally held on Labor Day - a bit better than October, but even today's June races are at the will of the weather.