EDITOR'S DESK: Rock Ledge Ranch: an earned name
I know a bunch of you out there grew up calling the spread off 30th Street the White House Ranch. And the big house nearest 30th Street was the White House itself.
All of which is OK. But if you haven't already, you really ought to check out how the old place is evolving with its newer (but more historically accurate) names -
Rock Ledge Ranch and the Orchard House. For one thing, the white paint has long since been stripped away. It was just something the owners in the '40s had
The fact that a coat of paint became the namesake for one of the most scenic and historic locations in the region says a lot about how far it had slid from the 1880s, when the Chambers family built the Rock Ledge House near the Garden of the Gods and grew acres of fruit trees; and from the early 1900s, when Colorado Springs founder William Palmer bought out the Chambers and had the Orchard House constructed for family members who were moving to the area from South Africa. By the 1960s, with the ranch no longer in operation and the buildings' historic look and feel faded or covered over, it probably would have surprised few people if they had been razed for the northward expansion of the Pleasant Valley subdivision that was proposed at the time.
But luckily for the Westside - not to mention Colorado Springs as a whole - some residents resisted that idea, got funding help from the El Pomar and Bemis Taylor foundations and convinced the city to buy it.
The volunteer support did not stop there. To this day, the Living History Association provides scores of adult and junior docents to help in innumerable ways (even taking tickets and guiding parking at special events). Kathy Read's remarkable Folk Art Festival each fall (Sept. 14-16 this year) pumps thousands of dollars into the ranch's restoration efforts.
The city's paid staff has done an admirable job with a low budget, supporting the volunteers and focusing on quality, even if it takes more time, as with the current Orchard House work. After nearly being lost to posterity (and losing its name to a coat of paint), Rock Ledge Ranch is going strong. The rest, as they say, is history.