COBWEB CORNERS: The mountain park
By Mel McFarland
If you lived in the east, you could come to Colorado to get away from the big cities for the summer. Where would people from Colorado Springs go? Dr. William A. Bell had a popular idea. Not long after Colorado Springs was founded, he started a place called Manitou Park. It was in an area of the mountains where he'd bought land for the lumber used to build Colorado Springs, Manitou and the buildings and bridges on the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad.
I found a description of Manitou Park from an 1880 newspaper. For the most part, the lumber business was still going on, but its peak was well past. The area was 26 miles from Colorado Springs, northwest, up Ute Pass. There were cabins and a rustic hotel. Many of the cabins were owned by prominent Colorado Springs residents, who rented them out for the summer. The hotel and many of the rental cabins were owned by Dr. Bell.
"This season has been an unusually prosperous one for the hotel," the newspaper story said. Indeed, there were so many visitors that in addition to the cabins some 40 additional tents were needed. Once the summer was over, with the mild weather, some stayed as late as October, plus there was also hunting in the area!
The lumber business, owned by H.D. Fisher by this time, had the largest mill in the state. It was on the south end of a curious little railroad, composed of cast-off equipment furnished by Dr. Bell and the D&RG railroad. Wagons hauled cut lumber down Ute Pass, taking two days to reach Colorado Springs. The nine-mile railroad also served as entertainment for the guests at the hotel. Full-moon train rides were offered, using cars that normally carried logs. It must have been quite rustic!
Fisher tried to get the D&RG to build up Ute Pass to his railroad, but the company was looking at the mining camps to the west, and could see no benefit in the connection for a company that was already getting its lumber to the railroad. In 1883, Fisher and a few others organized a new company to build up the pass, the Colorado Midland. But it too did not run a line to Manitou Park. The lumber company died, but Manitou Park remained a resort.