COBWEB CORNERS: The town of Manitou Park

By Mel McFarland

       Dr. Bell and General Palmer had great plans for not only Colorado Springs and Manitou, but up on the land north of the Leadville Wagon Road. Bell named the area several names over the years, but by the late 1870s it was known as Manitou Park. A rustic log hotel was built, and special coaches traveled daily between the hotel and Bell's town of Manitou. A fish hatchery was planned at the north end of the property, where supplies of trout could be raised for the hotel. It became a popular mountain resort.
       Dr. Bell had other ideas for the area. There were stands of heavy timber, prime for logging. He hired H. D. Fisher to organize a lumber company. The saw mill was located on his land closest to the Leadville Wagon Road. Bell also hired a fellow Englishman, Cholmondeley Thornton, as the overall manager of the Manitou Park operations.
       Fisher wanted a railroad to haul the logs south to the sawmill. The very light rail on the D&RG had largely been replaced by steel rail, and large amounts of the surplus iron was available. Most of the early "light" D&RG locomotives had been either stored or were doing menial switching. One of the small original locomotives (D&RG #5, the Ouray) was borrowed, partially disassembled, and hauled up Ute Pass wagon road to the rails. Older D&RG flatcars and even an old four-wheeled boxcar were obtained for service on the logging line. The boxcar was converted into a rustic caboose. The company started laying 7.2 miles of narrow-gauge track. Lumber was cut and hauled down the pass from the end of the railroad by wagon. Some of it was used in building the finer structures in Manitou and Colorado Springs. Heavy, extra long timbers were cut for the D&RG to use in new, heavier bridges. The timbers were loaded on flatcars at Manitou and shipped all over the railroad. Bell still regularly spent time traveling around the financial world raising money for his and Palmer's projects.
       The logging areas can hardly be found, having regrown in the last century and a quarter. In fact some of it was heavily logged about 70 years later, and some of it burned again in the Hayman fire. The area where the hotel was is now a park and a popular summer picnic area. You would hardly think the area had ever been a town.