COBWEB CORNERS: Tent cabins

By Mel McFarland

       This is really about Manitou and Ute Pass, but I thought you might like to hear about it. A while back I was at a friends house at Manitou. He had just bought an old house, one of the few that are largely “original.” When he took up a ratty old shag carpet, he noticed an odd pattern in the bedroom floor. My explanation caused him to scratch his head, until I pointed out something in the old pictures in my book of Manitou a hundred years ago.
       The house had started, like many of the old places, as a tent cabin. The earliest visitors only came in the summer. Rather than have a tent, like the very first visitors, tent floors were built on the hillsides. A canvas tent could be rented, but regular visitors had their own. Some of the cabins were owned by the early hotels, and were considered deluxe accommodations. Eventually, many of these tents had walls added, and some even got summer plumbing. A solid, wooden roof came along later. By the 1940s, most of the old floors had become what we now think of as cabins. Over the years, as people started moving in for year round living, additional rooms were added. By the late 1950s these summer tents had become year-round residences.
       Today most are unrecognizable, except maybe in one room, often a bedroom, but I have seen them in a kitchen or living room. There is a floor that looks very old, and different from the others. That is the usual giveaway. Many of these old floors can only be detected from under the floor. You might live in one, and not even know. They can be found up toward Woodland Park and Lake George, but the most commonly found versions are around Manitou, Green Mountain Falls and Cascade. Many in Manitou now look like houses, but up the pass they are more like cabins.
       Some of the pictures at the Old Colorado City History Center show these old towns, with a big hotel or two, a row of stores, and dozens of tents spread all over the hills. Many towns literally closed in October, and reopened in late May or June. They might have almost a thousand residents in July but only a dozen in January. In Colorado City these were not seen, but there were little cottages that were rented out. I talked of those about a year ago.