COBWEB CORNERS: The man who owned Balanced Rock
By Mel McFarland
Ever heard of Curt Goerke? He has an interesting place in our history. From a story I have found, it must have been hard for some people to get along with him.
The story involves Balanced Rock. About 100 years ago, when the Perkins family of Chicago gave the Garden of the Gods to Colorado Springs, Balanced Rock was not part of the property. Paul Goerke had purchased the area where the big rock sat, as well as the land called Mushroom Park, not long after Colorado Springs and Manitou started being developed. He put a road into the area and promoted his park. It was a popular spot to have pictures taken, and photographers in the Manitou area used it as both a subject and background. In doing so, they provided an income for Mr. Goerke.
When Garden of the Gods became a park, Manitou wanted to use Goerke's road as a path to it. He fought their challenge and in the end lost. Afterward, the Goerkes (Paul and his son Curt) threatened to put Balanced Rock behind a huge fence. In addition, they said they would do the same thing with Steamboat Rock, just east of it!
Eventually a settlement was reached in the conflict. The area was added to the Garden of the Gods.
Goerke had another dream for the property that did not develop. It was to build a grand boulevard from Manitou to the rock! Anyone who has driven Garden Drive today knows it is nothing like that!
I have not fully finished researching the story of Goerke and Balanced Rock, but I am surely amused that it happened at all.
When the streetcar line was built to Manitou in the late 1800s, the company had a fine station for Balanced Rock at the bottom of Garden Drive. That whole area is now an interchange on US 24 near the Manitou swimming pool.