COBWEB CORNERS: The plaster mill fire of 1892
By Mel McFarland
The plaster and cement works in Colorado City burned in the late hours of November, 20, 1892. At first the fire burned inside the main building, unnoticed, but when the fire spread the whole area took on a red glow. The works were located south of Colorado Avenue and north of Fountain Creek, near what is now South 23rd Street.
The area fire brigades turned out to fight the fire. At this time there was a Colorado City Fire Department, of sorts. Their limited capacity was only able to keep the fire from spreading.
The fire destroyed the warehouse, kilns and much of the processing machinery. A majority of the equipment used in the plant was fairly recent, even though the business dated back to the 1870s. New equipment had been put into operation, but at the time the mill was not being run. It was fairly normal for the mill to shut down during the winter months as demand slowed down. The most serious loss was the materials in the warehouse.
It was one of the oldest mills in the area, serving Colorado City as well as towns as far away as Cripple Creek. Hills in the area provided much of the raw materials. Quarries not only turned out stones for buildings but the concrete and mortar to hold them together! The businss had been started by George H. Stewart as the Stewart Plaster and Cement Works. Later it became the Colorado City Plaster of Paris company, owned by a company with statewide plaster investments.
The mill was not rebuilt after the fire, but over the years, as late as the 1950s, there were other plaster mills in the area. The Golden Cycle Corporation had a small plant in Manitou, turning out plaster and lime that were used in the Golden Cycle Mill and sold all over the west. The area east of Canon City has one of the largest plaster and cement mills in the state, and it still ships huge quantities of cement and lime.