June 19, 2013 Updated: June 19, 2013 at 5:50 pm
The Gazette is moving back downtown.
After 66 years on the eastern fringe of the city center, Colorado Springs' oldest business is heading to 6 N. Tejon St., just a block from where the newspaper began printing in 1872.
"We're moving back to the dead center of the community, right where Gen. Palmer laid out the first street," said Gazette Publisher Dan Steever. "It is a reiteration that we are part of the fabric of the region and will be for a long time."
The Gazette signed a lease this month for a 27,000-square-foot office on the first floor and part of the second floor of the sleek, gray modern building. The new offices will include a video studio and other equipment aimed at the growing online audience, but no printing presses. The Gazette will move into its new offices in December after extensive renovations, Steever said.
In its 141-year history, The Gazette newsroom has been in four locations - each symbolic of broader changes in the community.
When the city was small, The Gazette was small. It started in a two-story frame house on the northeast corner of what is now Tejon Street and Colorado Avenue, where the U.S. Olympic Committee now sits. In that simpler era, when the budding city had just 2,000 residents and a subscription to the four-page weekly Gazette cost $3 per year, the building was divided up. Town founder William Jackson Palmer had his office in the front. The newsroom/printing plant was in the middle room, and the paper's editor/publisher/printer/reporter, J. E. Liller, lived in the back room with his wife. Upstairs was the town meeting room where the church services were held, the first school was taught, the fire department was organized and the town militia met when there was news of Indian raids.
As Palmer's town slowly grew, The Gazette took over the building and added extensions to the east.
When the city thrived, The Gazette thrived. In 1891, The Gazette moved to a stately, new, four-story building at 15 E. Pikes Peak Ave. - the first four-story commercial building in the city. Erecting a lavish, $75,000 office of expensive sandstone with grand arches and decorative carved scrollwork had been a gamble for editor Benjamin Steele ?- one made on faith that Colorado Springs would continue to prosper. He got lucky. As the new Gazette building was rising, gold was discovered in Cripple Creek. The city of 10,000 people more than doubled in population in the next decade.
The Gazette held a party on the opening night of the grand new building so everyone in town could wander through the offices to marvel at "the great art of presswork" and "all the improvements and appliances of a metropolitan newspaper" including a special telegraph machine that typed out United Press reports by itself, as if by magic.
More than 1,000 people representing "fully the business and social life of the city" came, according to the paper's boastful account the next day, including several Denver editors, judges, businessmen and 19 members of the state legislature. An orchestra played on the top floor where "light refreshments" were served late into the night and "Many of the young people availed themselves of the opportunity offered by the big vacant rooms and danced."
The party would not last. Gold production in Cripple Creek started to falter after 1900. The boom faded. Many people who made it rich left town. Palmer died. Over the next several decades Colorado Springs barely grew. The Gazette was sold and sold again. In 1923 it was bought by the rival Evening Telegraph. The two papers merged in 1923 to form the Gazette-Telegraph (The "GT" as locals called it). The Gazette moved out of its stately building and into the Telegraph's two-story brick building across the street at 18 E. Pikes Peak Ave. Though the building is now gone, the spot under a portion of the building is where The Gazette will move in December.
When the city abandoned downtown, The Gazette abandoned downtown.
In the 1940s Colorado Springs became home to Army and Air Force installations. The huge influx of troops, construction, and other businesses breathed new life into the local economy and The Gazette.
R.C. Hoiles, founder of Freedom Newspapers, based in California, bought the paper in 1946. With the prospect of continued economic growth fueled by Department of Defense spending, Hoiles moved The Gazette to its current location at 30 S. Prospect St. in 1957.
It was an era of urban renewal when cities across the country were knocking down their old downtowns for parking lots and new high-rises while as the same time building shopping centers and suburbs stretching far from the city center.
"Our location is indicative of our expectations for the future," a front-page editorial said at the time. "For what is now 'fringe' of the downtown area may, in time, be included in the heart of one of America's fastest growing communities."
The 1957 building - one story, 28,000 square feet, with ample parking - was indicative of the next 50 years in Colorado Springs growth, which was characterized by suburban sprawl.
The building has been expanded several times as circulation grew from 25,000 in 1957 to more than 100,000 by 2000.
In 2012 Clarity Media Group bought The Gazette. The deal did not include the building on Prospect Street or the printing presses. The Gazette outsourced printing to The Denver Post this spring. The printing deal and a growing audience online convinced management to search for a new, more fitting location.
"This move really reflects how our culture and our news organization have changed," Steever said. "The new Gazette will not have printing presses, but it will have a video studio. The newsroom floor plan will be open and transparent, with full windows along Tejon Street. It is a symbol of our belief about communication and promoting transparency in the community, and, as the main community news provider, is both good for the community and for the Gazette."
The latest move symbolizes the growing influence of the Internet on people's lives but reaffirms the relationship The Gazette has had with the region since its founding, Steever said. "It has fundamentally changed how we do things," he said. "We have to adapt, and we have. The Gazette will be here for a long time to come. This is a long-term lease. We are not going anywhere. The fortunes of the community and The Gazette rise and fall together, and we are committed."
Contact Dave Philipps