1977 - The Second Big Move
During the three years living on Squaw Valley Drive on the far east of Colorado Springs - in suburbia I had also taken Real Estate Courses for a Realtor's license - without much enthusiasm, after seeing that Enjoy Colorado would not be a success until big, and even what were called 'mini' computers (personal computers had not really emerged yet) came down greatly in price. l couldn't afford one. For I realized - to run an Information Store - I would not only have to collect (the easy part) but store in ways it all could be retrieved efficiently and cheaply (the hard part) all that Colorado Information.
But, nevertheless, I volunteered to head up the city's 1976 Centennial-Bicentennial celebration, after I got even more disturbed by the mindless destruction of 'downtown' Colorado Springs historical buildings I grew up with. I began to think in entirely different terms about what I was going to get involved in.
As I report in the 'Historical Society' chapters in the 'Later Careers' section of this compendium, I had been approached by Luther McKnight, Leroy Ellinwood, and Bill Ellis, long time 'westsiders' to see if I could do something - as Chairman of the Entire City-County 1976 celebrations about the original 1859-1917 "Colorado City" which was originally part of the Westside. I told them yes, but they needed to educate me about that part of town I did not know well - even having grown up and visited often the City east of the Westside. Even though both were elderly, they did so, with enthusiasm . Leroy, who had been principal of Buena Vista elementary school, gave me not only a copy of the book he had written for children - "The Young Fifty Niners" about youngsters coming across the Plains in 1860 to Colorado City, but also, because of his advanced age and with no living children, an ORIGINAL four page large Folio copy of the Colorado City Journal of November 29th, 1861! A rarity. He said there were maybe only 4 or 5 copies in existence. It was full of the territorial and national history of the day - the Civil War, the new Colorado City town, the first printing of the laws of Colorado Territory, and terrific insights into those first days on the frontier.
Ellinwood trusted me - a rare compliment to his sense that I was going to honor the memory of the original Colorado City if anyone was. (Later in 2010 I prevailed upon those who took over the old Buena Vista School as the 'Westside Community Center' to reproduce that book he wrote to teach his young students in an entertaining way they could relate to about the history of young pioneers who came right to the neighborhood they, and many of their ancestors, lived in! They were both sold in the OCCHS book store and given away to disadvantaged Westside Children by the financial supporter of the Community Center Center - the large Woodman Valley Church)
And Luther McKnight gave me plenty of stories about Colorado City which he saw as a musician. Then some 20 years later he left the Old Colorado Historical Society which I had helped found, over $100,000 with which we were able to buy the original 1889 First Baptist Church of Colorado City catty corner from our house. And he left a large collection of photos and memorabilia he had collected over the years.
My paying attention to their 1976 request of me both paid off in Colorado City's History and the place to showcase it.
I started driving, first by myself, and then with Patsy, around the old houses and run down Victorian buildings of the West Side. I wondered aloud what it would be like to live there. Patsy saw how run down many places were, but she was interested too. She had lived in a number of historic houses on military posts, both with her parents and then after we were married.
I spotted the ONLY sign on the entire Westside that had the words "Colorado City" on it. It was on the front of an 1881 still active Lodge on Pikes Peak Avenue and 23d Street.
The Seminal Meeting
Then I attended a meeting of the City Human Relations Commission to brief them what I was doing with the Centennial activities that might interest them. They were focused on the poor and minorities in the City. I had already made a bit of a mark in the 'minority culture' of the city when I appointed a Black man named Tony Goggins to be the 'People' Committe head - beside the white led History, Celebrations, and Future Committee heads on the Pikes Peak or Bust By '76 Committee. After decades of routine involvement with racial minority cadets, enlisted men and officers during my 30 years military career, I just didn't develop racial biases in Colorado Springs, which was overwhelmingly white. So the Commission invited me to tell them how the Centennial plans might benefit their lower income constituents.
The speaker on the agenda just before me - Jim Ringe - was the head of the City's "Community Development Department" which had programs in depressed portions of the City - including downtown which had all but been eradicated by 'Urban Renewal'.
He told the Commission that the City was going to allocate some Bloc Grant HUD Funds for the run down 'Westside' that the city had already been declared - across a large westside area - residential and commercial - as plagued with 'slum and blight.' I recall he mentioned only $250,000. That declaration by the city would qualify it for the receipt and expenditure of HUD Bloc Grant Funds in depressed areas of town - which it had done in the Downtown, but with, in my opinion, disastrous results.
I perked up my ears. Having seen what I regarded as a failed, as well as very controversial, Urban Renewal downtown project, based only on tearing down the 'old' buildings, discounting the value of the land with federal funds, and then trying to attract out of town big investors with the now-cheaper downtown land, to build large structures and businesses there. The Libertarian Gazette Telegraph bashed the project unmercifully. (as its editor Maurice Whitney also later did over the use of federal Block Grant funds on the Westside and 'Old' Colorado City. He predicted it would fail. It did not.
A whole set of things clicked in my mind
(1)There were many smaller Victorian era buildings along West Colorado Avenue.
(2)A radically separate - from greater Colorado Springs - Frontier and later, westside, blue collar gold mill, railroad, union, history existed there.
(3)Block Grant HUD funds were available for 'economic development' in blighted areas.
But most importantly, I remembered ideas from one of the books I had studied trying to craft the 'Volunteer Army' at Fort Carson, that predicted the future of America's changing society - Naisbit's "Megatrends." I had used some of its insights while developing the Volunteer Army at Carson by trying to 'understand ', then attract new generations' of Americans. The one insight that applied right then to the 'Westside's' problem of decline was that times of great change are times of entrepreneurship - many people want to go into business for themselves, and not work for others or big institutions. That flew in the face of the prevailing assumptions about American business and jobs which seemed to have dominated Colorado Springs business thinking - that bigger business was better. And that all small businesses came as spinoffs from big businesses.
I was beginning to realize I had become - from my military study and experiences, and in caparison with the local civic leaders, elected officials, and businessmen - a futurist. My military education and experience, and increasingly I realized - my Celtic roots accounted for it. I had an imagination. I could visualize alternative futures, and had considerable ability to do something about it from my military, if not business, experience. The Westside was just another war to me. This time against slum and blight and the disappearance of history.
Even I had tried entrepreneurship in starting 'Enjoy Colorado' as a visionary future-markets business.
I was also aware of the influence the songs of 'John Denver' was having on 60's generations of easterners who heard "Rocky Mountain High" and flocked to Colorado to get away from Big City, Big Government, and Big Corporations. Many were would-be 'entrepeneurs' looking for small business opportunities - in out-of-the-way places, which the Westside and Colorado sort of was. Their actions perfectly reflected the 'trend' predictions' from Naisbit's 'Megatreds.' Why not capitalize on that set of conditions?
But newcomers were also trying to get loans in a capital short city - Colorado Springs - in a capital short state - Colorado. This was not go-go California. Getting a 'small business loan' from very traditional and conservative Colorado Springs bankers was tough - for the 50's reality and myth also lingered - that small business is not as sound as big business - what the City was fruitlessly trying to attract.
The very ultra-conservatism that was the hallmark of Colorado Springs, was at once its biggest impediment to seeing, and acting on change.
I was not only a Futurist, I seem to be destined to become a Change-agent. Maybe that was what I could be. Either paid, or pro-bono.
My Big Idea
What if I took on the leadership of an effort to attract would-be SMALL businessmen, with the incentive of lower-than-bank-rates loans, to buy and fix up some of those 50 empty historical-architecture store-front buildings on West Colorado Avenue and install their business in them? That would start to accomplish the goal the city had for the Westside - removal of slum and blight, increase jobs, and increase the tax base. Couldn't it save the westside without destroying it?
Then another brick fell into place. I was invited to lunch at the Broadmoor by Bill Wiley who was trying to get Gold Hill Mesa off the ground - primarily as a real Estate venture, using the history of the 'gold mill' for marketing as much as for metal . He had invited Jake Lance, the Small Business Administration (SBA) head, out of Denver to the lunch.
Wiley wondered if SBA could fund or guarantee loans for the gold extraction and redevelopment of the tailings pile on the westside and then develop the land for buildings.
No way said Jake, gently. Those were not SMALL business ventures by SBA's definitions - about $500,000 or less. But, changing the subject, I bored in and asked him what could he do to guarantee loans for a series of small businesses, if the city offered part of the financing through HUD Block grant money?
He thought a second and wasn't sure. If they were small businesses they fit the SBA mission. But using Federal Block Grant economic development funds was a novel idea he had not encountered before. He would look into it. He handed me a sheaf of papers about SBA Loans and loan guarantees, and went back to Denver.
I instantly got in touch with the one man whom I knew - from our both working for Bill Wiley on the Gold Hill Recycle Project - Wes Colbrunn - whom I knew had been a banker, knew small business- his restaurant in St Louis had failed when racial tensions rose in the city - and he had a taste for historical preservation. We met the next morning.
I remembered the day precisely. We drove up 21st street to overlook the Gold Hill Mesa property. But it was raining, hard. So we sat in the car waiting for the storm to pass. I handed him the SBA papers, which I had studied and underlined the evening before.
I said "What if the City offers small businessmen investors looking to buy one of those 50 empty store front buildings on Colorado Avenue - with a direct underlying loan for the building and repairs, from Block Grant Funds, while the SBA 502 Program Guarantees the bulk of a bank loan for the remainder costs? And what if we put a condition on each deal - that the front of the building has to be done in the original architectural historical style of the building, to go along with its visible history?"
Wes looked at me, then the papers, and said "I think that could really work."
That did it. He and I started to put the machinery into motion.
The Actual Move
I drove home across town and said to Patsy - I want to move to the Westside of Colorado Springs into a historic house of some kind. She knew I was on a mission, and given the distances she had to drive to get anything done in suburbia, and with the kids in scattered schools, she was not enamored of where we lived. Nice and modern, but.. She also knew another move would be a lot of work. But she had moved in the Army many times, and was a pro at it.
So over the next few days we drove around the Westside looking for 'sale signs' and I called the realtor who had sold me the Squaw Valley home, and he looked into the multiple listings for that part of town. He said most single family homes on the westside which are for sale, and because of the decline of the area are priced pretty low.
Patsy remembered having lived in a number of 'historic' Army homes - in Hawaii, at Fort Monroe, in Germany, at Fort Benning and with me at West Point. Old houses could have charm - even though the westside was hardly charming then.
The realtor gave us several leads. One was at 6 North 24th Street, just over a half block from a park - Bancroft Park, with its 1859 Log Cabin - a block from the heart of what was already beginning to be known (because I gave it the name to an emerging small business association on the avenue) Old Colorado City - to differentiate it from the incorporated 'Colorado City' south of Pueblo.
I begun to master the history of the original Colorado City. That's what I would 'do' for 'Old Town' that McKnight and Elinwood wanted for where they lived.
We looked at the 24th street house. The family ready to sell was named Marcovitch. They had had an elderly mother living with them there, but she had to go into a nursing home. They needed to get a much smaller place and get what money they could out of their house.
We looked it over, and were surprised to see a separate cottage in the back.
The main house had three bedrooms upstairs. One bath, with, interestingly enough a 'water closet' inside the bathroom with a door, with the toilet set way back - a full two steps inside. I thought that was odd. Later we learned why. Kitchen, dining room, room for an office, and a living room. An outdoor traditional front porch
A very old building, built in 1890, and rebuilt according to assessor records in 1900. The cottage behind had been built in 1894 as a 'Tack House' for a horse and buggy, but had been remodeled with a kitchen and bath extension later into an apartment. With the address 6 1/2 24th Street. A potential rental, or a place for one of our growing kids to live in. A dirt alley on the north side of the house and cottage, giving access to 5 parking spaces.
We later learned the house was in 'Grecian Revival' style.
|The first artistic rendition of it by Jack Ekstrom in 1977|
It would require some work, especially the roof. But with beautiful leaded glass in a front window, deep red wood sliding doors and decorative front doors it still retained its historical look. Paneling had been added over the once, but deteriorated, plaster walls. And white vinal siding covered the deteriorate wood underneath.
Not really classic historical renovations, but functional ones. I was not an historic purist.
It had obviously been rented out to druggies who lived on the westside, where many discharged Fort Carson soldiers lived, as the neighborhood had declined and rents went down. Two of the bedroom doors upstairs had ball-peen hammer marks as if someone who was high had tried to hammer their way in.
They were a quaint reminder of the bad old westside days that contributed to the general decline of the neighborhood. I never replaced those doors. They had a story. But they got frowns from our many guests over the years, who were too polite to ask about them.
We made two offers. The Markovitch's accepted $31,000. They had probably gotten the place, then did some renovation on it, inside and out, for as little as $15,000.
The price would really work for us, selling our new house which would surely have a market on the eastside and buying this old one. So we bought it with a 30 year VA guaranteed 8% loan, I only had to come up with $900 cash. The realtor already had a bid on our old-new house on Squaw Valley
We closed the deal on April 15th, 1977.
We promptly moved in. And became 'Westsiders for the next 35 years, until my dear wife Patsy died in it. I later decided I would live in it until I died also. It was our first real 'home.'
Several prominent people in Colorado Springs who knew me and my background wondered aloud at why I was moving into that 'run down Westside.' I had once lived on Millionaires' Row (Wood Avenue) as a youth. I was a West Pointer and a pretty senior officer. I had been Chief of Staff and a senior commander at Fort Carson, and was known to the power establish in Colorado Springs from my Centennial work. What was I thinking?
But I was confident I knew what I was doing. I saw a Westside and 'Old' Colorado City future that they could not. I wanted to be part of it by making it happen. Buy low. Sell high. And like my Welsh ancestors - look over the horizon where the unicorns - er, little men - are gathering. My reputation as a 'futurist' was emerging.
And as I figured, having 'put my money where my mouth was' on the Westside, I because instantly more credible to 'westsiders' especially older ones, who were properly skeptical about the grand plans laid out by city bureaucrats who knocked on their doors -none of whom lived where they were advocating changing their westside with Federal money. I began to get the sense that being a 'westsider' meant something special.
(As I write this in 2012, the assessor asked me in 2011, to pay property taxes on his assessment of $200,000, for a debt-free house.)
Maybe I wasn't as dumb as the smart money boys in downtown Colorado Springs thought.
I not only was, as a civilian, thinking as a futurist, but also acting as a leader who still, as I had all during my military career, marched to my own drum. Patsy trusted me.
We moved in, somehow.
Young Edward had an upstairs bedroom. We managed somehow to get our original Bedroom furniture we had since our marriage into another bedroom. And had enough furniture left over to give it to David for the third bedroom.
Rebecca wanted to live in the Cottage, which had a second floor bedroom, kitchen and bath on the first floor. She didn't have enough furniture to fill up the downstairs 'living room.'
I immediately saw that, at least the front room of the downstairs of the cottage could become the place I set up the first Personal computer I bought at the neighborhood Radio Shack, which Alvin Toffler's "Future Shock" dubbed 'Electronic Cottages"
For I had already been asked by the West Colorado City Commercial Club which was the revived - after several years - small business association for the 'Old Town' district to work for them, being paid with city funds to help 'market' the area. Which I agreed to do for no more than a year.
The City, having decided to put an office in the middle of the redevelopment area leased first floor space in the large 3 story brick 'Templeton Block' building, and redid the inside, with a large space for public meetings, a balcony area which could accommodate two sets of office desks, and space for the Commercial Club to have desk and filing cabinets, with upgraded power and telephone outlets.
That is also where Wes Colbrun had his office. He having, with me, gotten the city to support an 'Old Colorado City Development Company' which could make the city Bloc Grant loans to the small businessmen - for their building, its renovation, its heavy equipment - like kitchen stoves - and deal with the SBA guarantee for bank loans. While I fed the board and the potential owner, the architectural history of the building. Getting the city even to pay, with bloc grant funds, the 'elevation drawings' for the outside of the building by good architects.
That office is where I put my first Radio Shack TRS-80 personal computer in 1978 which, together with external Disk Drive and large telex teletype as printer. I bought it as my 'business machine.' A huge step down from a Main Frame or even 'Mini Frame' Computer used in corporations. It still cost me $4,500 at the local Radio Shack store.
This was a PERSONAL computer.
I sensed a communications revolution was in the making. I began to think of the implications of thousands of individuals with 'personal computers' doing 'knowledge work.' It was 1978, two years since the first Apple computer was sold and one year since the first Radio Shack was sold.
As soon as I got it working and found a program called 'Electric Pencil' a text processor that would drive the printer, and then the first version of a Spread Sheet program called Visicalc, I realized just how powerful - and relatively cheap it was for what it could do.
For I knew I was not a good 'bookkeeper' and could not afford one. But if the computer could ''keep the books."
And I was not a good pencil and paper 'list maker' - recording all the buildings in Old Colorado City. But Visicalc could hold lists. And print them out each time information was changed.
And definitely it could 'what if' numbers. Store them, retrieve them, change them, get different results, and then print out, rapidly, new lists.
That was power. I didn't NEED another person working for me. I could do it all at the scale this was starting up.
It only took me a few more months until I discovered the primitive, slow (300 baud) modems which could connect the computer to an outside telephone line. And to something I heard about called "The Source" - the very first 'personal' national communications - email and discussion groups - service.
Then I KNEW a revolution was starting.
After I had used the computer for several months. I took it back home, put it in the Cottage, and labeled the front door of the Cottage "The Old Colorado City Electronic Cottage!"
History of Our House We Learned About
After we moved into 6 North I did something about the single bathroom.
I had a carpenter and plumber take out the door to the 'Water Closet' in our one bathroom, kept the toilet where it was - way at the back of the space - and built a shower at the front, added a sink, and put in a door to the inside of the back porch. Patsy gave her design advice for its decor.
So that created a nice second bathroom with shower at the foot of the stairs in the house.
Then we added a toilet into the front bathroom, which already had a big clawfooted antique tub and a sink.
Voila, we had two bathrooms.
Meanwhile I looked up the history of the house from the Polk House Directories and gathered more information.
The house was built in 1890 by William Seaver (and wife Minnie). In 1914 it was listed in the Colorado City Directory as '108 N 4th Street'
Seaver was a carpenter, railroad man, and gold miner. He found gold, made some money, but lost it looking for more.
His wife had a nice horse carriage so the 'Tack House' in the back was used for the horse and carriage - and in the usual design, the '2d story' was where the hay and grain was stored. Probably with a ladder.
William died in 1923. Minnie married George Weatherall in 1924. They lived in the house, then numbered 6 N 24th Street after 1917 Annexation to Colorado Springs when 4th became 24th.
They lived there until 1940, when it was sold to Dorothy Seavy Harris, (and husband Harris?) granddaughter of Minnie.
And it was Dorothy, who knocked on our door one day, for of course she lived here as a girl, told us more, and finally told me about the unusually deep 'Water Closet.'
She said that when the first 'indoor plumbing' started to be installed in homes, and city sewer systems came in - running up the alley to the side of 6 North, George Weatherall was convinced that such a contraption as a toilet would stink up the house. They had done just fine with an Outhouse before.
So he built an entirely new Back Porch on the back of the original house, that extended out far enough that he could put in a 'water closet' with a door inside the bathroom, to give access to the toilet. With the door closed the 'stink' - if any was able to go out through a small window.
The rest of the porch contained a back door to the house and kitchen and outside. And later, when we bought it, it had space for washer and dryer, and refrigerator on the porch - which still has a nasty habit of freezing washer pipes when the temperature gets below zero.
Later still son Edward put a plastic roof over the outside extension of the porch.
Then when, in the 40s (I believe) the then owners took the two story 'Tack House' building, built an extension on it toward the alley, that gave space for a complete kitchen and bathroom on the first floor, with utilities coming off the alley, though the sewer from the house, and the cottage, join in the middle of the yard, before a connection to the alley.
A few years before we bought the property in 1977, a one car garage stood there, but burned down. The burn marks were still visible on a telephone pole in the alley.
Finally, the legal description of the entire property we bought and have the paid off deed to, with the 6 North 24th house and 6 1/2 cottage on it was originally side by side lots 17, 18, 19, and 20, Block 145, Fosdick Plat of Colorado City, 1860.
Our Three Kids Get Settled
Probably the best picture of our three children - David, Rebecca, and Edward - in their teen years before they went off to adulthood. The picture was taken in Monument Valley Park, Colorado Springs.