Friday, March 2, 2012

Manitou Springs, Colorado Burro Lines

This photograph has been a source of talk in our family for many years and is one of the inspirations for Historical Lens. We knew it was a picture that included my Great Grandparents (4th and 5th from the right). The caption reads "The start for Pikes Peak July 24th 1910."

The family story was that my Great Grandparents were in Colorado for their Honeymoon, but there was so much we didn't know about the picture. My Great Grandparents were retired when they adopted their own Grandchildren due to a divorce and subsequent death of their only daughter. They didn't share much about their life with the children. And as with most things, if it isn't passed down, it will be lost.

Questions raced through my mind: why did people ride Burros to the top of Pikes Peak (notice they're all in Victorian clothes in the middle of Summer), why would my Great Grandparents travel to Colorado all the way from Missouri in 1910 and does this place still exist?

I was turning 40 years old in August of 2010. I told my husband that I wanted to be on top of a mountain on my actual Birthday. We chose Pikes Peak. It would be 100 years and 12 days after my Great Grandparents made the same trip. I decided to take my photo with me. I wanted some answers.

I was able to locate an Historian at the Manitou Springs Heritage Center. She was kind enough to open up her museum for me on her day off and helped me fill in the details from our family photo.

Manitou Springs was a tourist mecca at the turn of the century. It was known for it's springs and healing waters. One of the many attractions in Manitou were the Burro Lines. Yes, Burro Lines. There were a handful of them in Manitou Springs. Before each excursion, the tour would line up and take a picture as a souvenir. Some photos were even turned into Postcards. Our picture is a Souvenir Photograph!

The group would leave Manitou Springs mid afternoon, travel half way up the mountain and camp for the night. They'd awake around 3 or 4 am and resume their journey. The goal was to be on top of the mountain at dawn.

Burros are no longer an option for reaching the summit of Pikes Peak. You may either drive (which seems harrowing at best) or you can take the Cog Railway. In 2010, we opted for the Cog.

As we approached the top of Pikes Peak via the Cog we could see trails in the mountain grass where the Burro Lines used to travel. We were told the grass on the mountain side is so fragile that it only grows about an inch every 100 years. It was incredible to see the trails and imagine my Great Grandparents eagerly anticipating reaching the summit.

The Historian at the Heritage Center helped me find the location of our photo, too. The building, which was a barn, had unfortunately been torn down, but several of the surrounding buildings were still there. What a full circle moment for me to stand in the exact same place as my Great Grandparents almost a 100 years later. Could they ever have imagined that their own great great grandchildren would make the same journey as they had?

There are so many incredible things to notice in the photo from 1910.

•The Blanke Coffee advertisements on the front of the building are terrific.
•Did you notice there is a space in between "To" and "Day", as if it's two words?
•The building to the far right was the Post Office (bars on the windows).
•The building in the back in the alley was a Lumber Yard. I learned "M E Mulloy" was a prominent builder, too. Their phone number is listed on the front of that building as "Purple 718" or "Purple 710" (it's a little hard to distinguish).
•On the hill behind the Lumber Yard is a railing for an old home.
•If you look in the photo from 2010, you can still see the house on the hill, the back wall of what would have been the Lumber Yard and the Post Office, which is now a Deli.

The remaining questions we have are open to speculation. We know my Great Grandfather's uncle lived in the Colorado Springs area. We assume that he is one of the individuals in the picture, but are unsure of which one he might be. We can also only guess that my Great Grandparents took the train all the way from St. Louis to Colorado. That would have been the main source of transportation for an extensive trip such as this during that time period.

What a long and thrilling trip that would have been for a young bride and groom. I can't imagine many people had the opportunity to take this kind of trip to see the United States. Their future was so bright.

Most of our mystery has been solved. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to dig deeper. We no longer have to wonder about the photograph. I feel an even stronger connection to my lineage. And a deeper sense of adventure!

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