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COBWEB CORNERS: The Old Town building that Spec saved

By Mel McFarland

        That is Spencer "Spec" Penrose I am talking about. He does not get a lot of credit when they talk about a certain building here in town, but today I will share some of the story.
       In 1927 there were few buildings remaining from 1890, much less 1860 or before. One was about to be removed. It was in the 2600 block of West Colorado Avenue. The property where it sat had been sold for redevelopment. The new owner did not want the building. The recently organized El Paso County Pioneers wanted to save it, but so far had raised no funds. When plans for the building to be torn down were announced, it was Penrose who finally stepped in and agreed to move it off the property.
       That building was an 1859 log cabin, which had been used by the Colorado Legislature in 1861.
       Now, you might wonder just how the move was done. It was carefully taken apart under the direction of respected local architect Thomas McLaren. He was under contract to Penrose and the Broadmoor Hotel. Among his well-known projects were the Sacred Heart Catholic Church and the Orchard House at what is now the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site.
       Each log, rafter and board in the cabin was carefully removed, marked and loaded into trucks. It was transported across town and reassembled at the Polo Park, east of the hotel. A small park was designed for the building, with parking for visitors. The project was photographed in detail as the work progressed. These could be used for checking if any problems arose during the reconstruction. It took almost two weeks to complete the job.
       Later the building was moved again, onto the Broadmoor golf course. In 1959 it was moved to Denver, where it was placed on the capitol grounds for the Rush to the Rockies (1859-1959) Centennial.
       With the cabin's site today in Bancroft Park, one structural thing has changed. When it was in the 2600 block, two blocks to the west, it was backed up against the hillside so the first three rows of logs were buried in the dirt. These have been replaced, maybe even a couple of times, due to the rot.
       I wonder if the pictures taken for the 1927 move are stashed somewhere? Over the years they could have become buried themselves. They certainly would have been useful in the last restoration in 2003.

(Posted 3/5/15; Opinion: Cobweb Corners)

       Editor's note: Local historian Mel McFarland has been writing his Cobweb Corners column in the Westside Pioneer since early 2004. To see past columns, go to the Pioneer's Archives. Either look for desired articles under the Cobweb Corners category for any year, or search by keywords in the Find box.

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