In its 140 years, Monument has evolved from a pit stop for weary 19th-century railroad travelers into a burgeoning city whose recent growth amazes longtime residents.
Fifty years ago, in the 1960s, the population of Monument was about 200. Twenty years ago, at the turn of the 21st century it was 2,000. It has quadrupled to 8,000 today.
On Saturday, residents gathered to celebrate their town’s long history, as well as its modern identity as the anchor of northern El Paso County’s surging growth.
“We want to acknowledge, first of all, residents and how much they’ve contributed to this community,” Monument Mayor Don Wilson said at the town festival at Limbach Park. “It started as a very small community. (The event is) an appreciation and a celebration of what Monument was and what it’s about.”
The park is named for Henry Limbach, the founder of what would become Monument, its first mayor, and owner of a saloon and barbershop.
Monument, a territorial ranching settlement in the mid-1860s, was originally named Henry’s Station, in honor of Limbach. After the coming of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad in the 1870s, the town was renamed Monument for the rock formations to the west.
The town’s economic and marketing manager, Madeline VanDenHoek, said the town’s rise is largely due to locals who grew up in Monument coming back to raise their families there.
“I think we’re starting to get that identity of this is our place,” VanDenHoek said. “Our neighbors to the north and south are wonderful, but this is our town.”
The residential and commercial growth so visible along Interstate 25 north of Colorado Springs has been accompanied with some pain, as well. This year began with city officials pointing fingers at each other and barely being able to function as a government.
Several municipal officials were kept wondering if they would be let go while the Board of Trustees deadlocked on a replacement for Wilson, who gave up his seat on the board when he was elected mayor.
Residents also criticized Lewis-Palmer School District 38 officials, some by name, in an anonymous survey after a bond issue failed.
Despite that friction, Saturday’s event stood as a reminder of the town’s resilience.
“We’re trying to appreciate the people who are here,” Wilson said. “We have some areas left to grow, and I’m sure that’ll come in the next couple years. Some of those areas haven’t grown in a long time so we’d like to see them used effectively.”