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Ask Gen. Palmer: Multiuse cabin was first in Colorado Springs

October 24, 2013 Updated: October 24, 2013 at 1:44 pm
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Editor's Note: This column about local history appears in Sunday's print editions of The Gazette, on the "Who We Are" page. Send questions to dave.philipps@gazette.com; 636-0238.

Question: What's the oldest building in Colorado Springs?

Answer: Colorado is fortunate to have one of the original cabins in the region still standing in what you now call Bancroft Park in Old Colorado City. I remember stopping in this little habitance in 1869, when I was putting together the plan for Colorado Springs. It was a one-room affair hewn from local fir logs by the town founder, Melancathon Beach, and an Illinois doctor named James Garvin, who came here during the gold rush in 1859. Because it was one of the only structures in the region at the time, it served many purposes.

The doctor used it as his office, apothecary, dwelling and morgue.

In 1862, the newly elected Colorado Territorial counsel met in the cabin and chose Colorado City as their capitol. A few days later, realizing there were few amenities here, they moved to Golden, taking the capital designation with them.

In 1868, after Indians scalped and killed three settlers, their mutilated bodies were laid out in the cabin. By the way, they also shot one of our local characters - the noted town tippler Judge Baldwin - but when they went to scalp him, they found an old scar of a previous scalping, which scared them away. Baldwin eventually recovered, though a few years later he was found dead at the bottom of a well.

I visited the cabin - a drafty, primitive place - in 1869 and found the young county clerk, Irving Howbert, working at his desk. I used Howbert as a front man to quietly buy up the land that soon became Colorado Springs.

Soon Colorado Springs took the seat of the county, and Colorado City was relegated to a seedy outskirt. In the 1880s, the cabin became a Chinese laundry and opium den that caused the police some dismay. It was vacant for years. It was almost torn down. Then in the late 1920s, they say, the Tutt family, who had made a great deal of money in mining and in The Broadmoor hotel, bought the cabin for $40. They moved it to The Broadmoor golf course, where it served as a storage shed.

Then came the celebration of the centennial of the gold rush in 1959. The Broadmoor gave the cabin to the state historical society, which had it trucked to the lawn of the state Capitol. It stayed there two years until the people of Denver, perhaps unsure what to do with it, gave it back to Colorado Springs. It was loaded back on a truck and hauled back to Bancroft Park, two blocks from where it started a century before.

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As told by staff writer Dave Philipps in Gen. Palmer's voice.

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