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COBWEB CORNERS: Stratton or Palmer - whose statue was first?

By Mel McFarland

        We have a growing number of statues in the streets downtown, but one that's well known. Which statue was first? It's actually not there anymore, except as a modern replacement.
       In 1922, the city was looking at a memorial to Colorado Springs founder General William Palmer. A committee had been formed years before to sort out the various ideas. While this was happening, a statue was moved to Nevada and Vermijo avenues, in a little round island in the center of the
intersection. It had originally been placed in Stratton Park, out along Cheyenne Road. The piece was in honor of early Colorado Springs philanthropist Winfield Scott Stratton. Eventually it would be moved to the Myron Stratton Home. A modern interpretation of the statue now stands on Pikes Peak Avenue downtown, so there are two of him.
       A General Palmer statue was suggested after his death in 1910. A committee was formed to plan what it should look like and where it should go. After years of discussion, an invitation to submit proposals went out. Oliver Shoup, a city resident and former governor, was chairman of the committee.
       The first serious submittal came from Ann Hiatt Huntington, a noted eastern artist, in May 1923. She suggested a statue of the general on horseback. She depicted him as a young man, on his horse, looking at his dog. When Huntington's pictures were released, a flurry of protests went up! A prominent complaint was her depicting him as a young man. Even Irving Howbert, a close friend of Palmer, did not like the proposal. He said the General would not like it either! He pointed out that the horse was not a type he'd commonly ridden, nor the dog the kind he'd had as pets. The model was rejected, and requests for proposals went out again.
       Two months later another idea surfaced. This one was closer to what some people had in mind. The Broadmoor Art Academy and the Broadmoor Hotel had been visited by Leo Lentelli about the time the concept for the statue was announced. His model depicted an older, more rugged General Palmer, with a horse that was more accurate. It also included a cowboy and a prospector. Although much more to the tastes of the committee, Lentilli's idea was also rejected. The design concept was still not settled. It would take a bit longer.
       The Palmer statue's location was influenced by the placement of the Stratton statue. South Park, where the county court house (now Pioneers Museum) stands, was at the south end of what was then the business district. North Park (now Acacia Park) was at the opposite end. Pikes Peak Avenue, Nevada, Weber and Cascade marked the edges of the downtown at the time. The city planned early on to put Palmer's statue at Nevada and Platte because it was in the center of town, where US 24 and US 85-87 meet. Still, not everyone agreed.
       The statue was finally installed in 1924. I will share with you in my next column the selection of the final design and location.

(Posted 6/5/14; Opinion: Cobweb Corners)

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