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Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services Headquarters, Mail Code 1200
1401 Recreation Way
Colorado Springs, CO 80905-1975
Phone: (719) 385-5940
Fax: (719) 385-6599
Email: spark@SpringsGov.c. . .
Hours: 8 am - 2 pm, Monday through Friday





City of Colorado Springs / Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services / Parks, Trails & Open Space / Parks / Regional Parks / Garden of the Gods / GOG Facts & History / Ownership History

Garden of the Gods Historical Ownership

1874

Robert Chambers brought his ailing wife west to see if the mountain air would help her. It did, and later he purchased for $1,400, one hundred sixty acres that had been homesteaded by Walter Galloway. The Chambers started a very successful produce farm providing fruits and vegetables to the young city of Colorado Springs. The site, just east of the Garden, is now known as Rock Ledge Ranch.
1879 General Palmer repeatedly urged his friend Charles Elliot Perkins, the head of the Burlington Railroad, to establish a home in the Garden of the Gods. In 1879, Perkins purchased two hundred and forty acres in the Garden of the Gods for a summer home. He later added to the property but never built on it, preferring to leave his wonderland in its natural state for the enjoyment of the public.
1886 Increased travel to the area brought increased fame to the Pikes Peak region.

In 1886, a Pennsylvania Congressman proposed the Garden of the Gods, along with Pikes Peak, as our nation's second National Park. This area was to encompass thirty square miles. The idea was abandoned because there was already too much privately owned land within the proposed area.

circa
1900
Sometime in the early 1890's a photographer named Paul Goerke and his family arrived in Manitou. By the turn of the century, they had acquired Mushroom Park, a large tract west of Buena Vista Drive that included the Balanced Rock. This area was named for the abundance of mushroom-shaped rock formations found there.

Paul Goerke and his son Curt made roads and trails through one hundred acres of this area. They did not charge admission but reserved the right to photograph Balanced Rock. They provided burros as props and took thousands of pictures of smiling tourists.

A 1900 tax plat shows that most of the land in the Garden of the Gods was two-thirds owned by the Estate of Graham Odle and one-third by William J. Palmer. Palmer bought Rock Ledge Ranch from Robert Chambers for $17,000, and added it to his Glen Eyrie Estate.

1905 Palmer began constructing a fine $30,000 house, the "Orchard House," on the Rock Ledge Ranch property for his wife's half sister, Charlotte Sclater.
1907 Because of continuing correspondence between Palmer and Perkins, there was speculation that the Garden of the Gods might again be proposed as a National Park or at least presented to the City of Colorado Springs. But Perkins died in 1907 before he made arrangements for the land to become a public park although it had been open to the public for years.
1908 Knowing their father's feeling for the Garden of the Gods, the Perkins children conveyed his four hundred eighty acres to three trustees late in 1908. A year later, the legal work was completed and the City agreed to the restrictions imposed on the gift.

The Perkins land became the property of the City of Colorado Springs to be known forever as the Garden of the Gods "where no intoxicating liquors shall be manufactured, sold or dispensed, where no building or structure shall be erected except those necessary to properly care for, protect, and maintain the area as a public park." Any violations of these restrictions shall cause the property to revert to the Perkins' heirs.

Also in 1908, Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed the establishment of Pike National Forest, which included the federal forest lands northwest of the Garden of the Gods. These lands had been reserved as early as 1892.

1909 In 1909, General Palmer died, and his in-laws, the Sclaters, left the Orchard house and moved to England.
1914 Ridge Road was built to provide an additional entry to the area. The following year, the City built Hidden Inn for $7,500 and leased it to Carl Balcomb. It was enlarged many times and leased to others over the next 80 years.
1921 In 1921, the first of the ongoing activities to attract visitors to the Garden was inaugurated. Young Rev. Albert W. Luce of the Pikes Peak Christian Church conceived the idea of holding an Easter Dawn service there as the sun rose over the Gateway Rocks. Seven hundred attended the first service in contrast to the thousands who came in subsequent years.
1923,
cont.
The success of the Easter service, broadcast for the first time by KVOR in 1923, evidently increased the City's interest in its park and caused the concessionaires some concern. Unable to constrain the camera-toting snapshooters, the proprietors of the famous Balanced Rock fenced in that natural formation and charged admission. That led to litigation over the right-of-way of Manitou Road past the Balanced and Steamboat Rocks. In October, a court decree established the location of the Garden of the Gods Road through the park.
1935 In the fall of 1935, the Civilian Conservation Corps embarked on a program of building new roads and obliterating unusable ones. In order to proceed with this, the City asked for the vacation of the Manitou Road past the Balanced Rock.

At this time the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) placed a marker to indicate the old Ute Indian Trail, which is right beside the South Garden Parking Area.

1938 George W. Strake bought the vast Glen Eyrie estate for $350,000 and soon sold off portions of its ranch lands. L. L. Dent acquired the Chambers ranch and rehabilitated the Orchard House. The new exterior white paint gave reason for the name: White House Ranch. Strake later sold the 1,140 acre Glen Eyrie portion to the Navigators with twenty two buildings, for a reported $300,000.
1968 Late in 1968, when a building development encroached on the east entrance of the Garden of the Gods, the City purchased the remaining undeveloped White House Ranch property from Egmont Vrooman who had bought it following the death of L. L. Dent.
1978 To reduce erosion and provide handicapped access, a rust-colored concrete loop path replaced the spider web of trails in the Central Garden Zone, and reclamation of trampled areas was begun.
1993 The Camera Obscura (a privately owned attraction) was removed by its owner from the High Point building, and the City refurbished the site as a temporary summer information center.
1993 The public process of updating the Garden of the Gods Master Plan, which began in the summer of 1993, resulted in an approved Master Plan by the City Council in August 1994. The process involved building consensus among diverse community groups providing input - hikers, bicycle riders, rock climbers, horse riders, historians, American Indians, scientists, and the general public - to help preserve the park. As some of the first steps in implementation of the Master Plan, the High Point building was removed and construction of the new, privately funded Garden of the Gods Visitor Center began. The Center is located just outside of the Park's eastern boundary at the Gateway Road Entrance.
1995 The Chuckwagon Pavilion (on the north end of the park beside North Gateway Rock) was removed and the area was revegetated.

The Hidden Inn concession ended in March.

White House Ranch Historic Site changed its name to Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site, restoring the property's 1880s name.

The new Garden of the Gods Visitor Center opened in May with information and maps, city interpretive staff offices, exhibits on natural and social history, a geology theater program, guided walks, transportation through the park, food service, and sales.

1998 In cooperation with the Garden of the Gods Master Plan, and through extensive public meetings, the Hidden Inn was removed and the area began the vegetation reclamation process.