COBWEB CORNERS: The reluctant rich man
By Mel McFarland
One man changed the lives of many people in this area. He is remembered all around us. He is downtown as a statue, a spot in town carries his father's name, and he owned many blocks of buildings downtown. Winfield Scott Stratton became the wealthiest man in Colorado when he sold the Independence mine near Victor for $10 million.
The man went from a carpenter to the second richest man in Colorado Springs. His wealth did nothing except to give him money to dump into various projects. He was a solitary man, uninterested in things usually connected with richness. He was slowly killing himself with alcohol. He bought property and virtually gave it away for various projects. He was one of the primary supporters for building the Short Line.
When he bought the failing Colorado Springs Rapid Transit (CSRT) streetcar line in 1900, it was on the verge of collapse. It had not kept up with the latest trends, and all the cars were showing their age and heavy use. In the mid-1890s the popular mode of transit was the bicycle. One thing he did needs to be mentioned right after that. He bought a bicycle for every laundry lady in town so they would not have to carry laundry baskets!
By 1902, Stratton had completely reorganized and rebuilt the antiquated CSRT system under the name of the Colorado Springs and Interurban (CS&I). Even though he was now showing signs of failing health, Stratton continued to supervise the rehabilitation of the line. For the first time since the early 1890s the streetcar company showed a profit. On Sept. 14, 1902, Stratton died.
Stratton could not foresee the many problems left behind by his death, but he had set up a trust to handle his fortune and maintain his holdings after his death. His will set definite restrictions for the use of his investments to support projects. One of the projects was the Myron Stratton Home, named in honor of his father, which was incorporated in November 1909. It was to take care of many of the people who had worked hard in the area but had not shared in the wealth.