Colorado Springs Author’s New Book Tells Colorful, Lesser-Known Tales of Pikes Peak | North Springs Edition


Colorado Springs historian Eric Swab had previously researched the Pikes Peak Highway. He’s not the type to splash around as much as to dive.

“So during the pandemic, that’s what I did. I did some research on the highway, ”he said.

“And it turned out that there was a lot to discover. I had no idea that a 19 mile stretch of asphalt would produce so many interesting things.

The result is “The Granite Attraction: Stories of the Pikes Peak Highway and Summit”. The book follows on from other definitive tales Swab wrote about Fred Barr, father of the Mountaintop Trail, and the Manitou Incline.

The author calls it his biggest business to date – twice the size of his previous page counts, with twice the search.

Jack Glavan, 26-year manager of Pikes Peak-America’s Mountain, calls the book a “refreshing look” at the history of the freeway.

“I could imagine the thrill and the hardships of those who hiked the first trails and the unpaved highway,” Glavan writes in his praise.

The thrills are those of the first cyclists of the carriage road who preceded the route known today. Shortly after the rough road opened in 1888, Swab says a local watchmaker pedaled in less than six hours. The man took less than three on the way down.

Read the description of another cyclist, Jack Fulton, in 1895: “It turned out as close as possible to come down the side of a building. “

Swab turned to a trio in 1910 to set the standard for motorcycling on the mountain. “The last mile was so crowded with rocks that the runners had to push their machines to the top,” he writes.

Broadmoor owner Spencer Penrose funded the completion of a modern highway in 1916 to meet the auto boom.

“So,” Swab said, “here is a bunch of makers and wealthy owners wondering, what can I do with this new toy?”

The book lists several of the early vehicles that attempted the trip, including Stearns, Brush Runabouts, and Ramblers. Performance tests are also described for models like Chevy, General Motors and Audi. A photo is included of the bizarre solar-powered car that Minnesota students took on the freeway in 1990.

There are images of other curious moments, such as from 1919, when a tank nicknamed “Little Zeb” in honor of Zebulon Pike rumbled on the mountainside. There were ambitious pushes of wheelbarrows and peanuts. In 1985, a piano was pushed to the top. A decade later, students at Palmer High School dribbled basketballs and threw soccer balls on the freeway.

These were far from the only publicity stunts at the top. Swab offers a chapter on enrichment programs. In a problematic effort, one-square-foot slices of granite were advertised for $ 1 a piece. Deeds were printed proclaiming “Pikes Peak Landowner”.

The second part of “The Granite Attraction” is devoted to summit developments, starting with the Army Weather Station built in 1873. The 14,115-foot research residence has inspired great stories that have stood the test. time.

“I couldn’t resist including the rat story,” Swab said, referring to the one on flesh-eating rodents.

While this isn’t the only myth mentioned in the book, Swab mostly sticks to hard evidence – recordings, documents, and newspaper accounts.

It tells the lesser-known story of Lanter City, the proposed settlement on the now famous North Slope that never saw the light of day. Another lesser-known element concerns the feud between Penrose and Pikes Peak Cog Railway founder Zalmon Simmons.

“To prevent automobile tourists from enjoying the eastern views and amenities of Cog Summit House, Simmons erected a fence,” writes Swab. “In retaliation, Penrose built a new house at the top for the convenience of his highway patrons.”

Swab hopes the book will spark interest with the new Pikes Peak Summit Complex.

“I bet even someone steeped in this history will learn something new,” he said.

Contact the author: [email protected]


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