|A USAFA Nearby
The Land. Seventy million years ago Sun Hills (just
east of Gleneagle) was a sandy bottom beneath the sea. Then volcanic pressure
tipped up deep layers of hard igneous granite (laced with many other minerals
including gold) to form the young Rocky Mountains. The entire center of
the United States rose to drain the sea down to what is now the Gulf of
Mexico. Colorado was left with a paradoxical mix of huge mountains and
seabed fossils. Sun Hills was left with big sandstone rocks sitting in
some of our yards, and sandy alluvial soil so loose that your house's
foundation can slip if you water too much on the uphill side.
This sandy soil will grow almost anything if it gets enough moisture,
but Mother Nature doesn't provide adequate rain & snow to support
more than conifer trees, scrub oak, tough grasses and some great wildflowers.
Yucca, small cactus and other desert plants are happy here.
The Dawson and then Denver aquifers are the first two aquifers below us,
from which our individual wells draw water. As long as they last, we won't
have to ask the State Engineer for permission to drill deeper, into the
Arapahoe and then Laramie-Fox Hills aquifers (at great expense), or have
to ask Colorado Springs to annex us so we might use the water it must
pipe in literally through the mountains from as far away as Breckenridge.
Water is the major long-term ecological concern of Colorado, of Colorado
Springs, and of Sun Hills.
Pioneers Before Us. In 1833 the first settlement
in what is now El Paso County--one of the original seventeen counties
of the Colorado Territory formed in 1861--was Jimmy's Camp, at a natural
spring about twelve miles southeast of Sun Hills (just north of Highway
24 near its intersection with Constitution Ave). A seasonal trading post
offering trinkets, metal tools, rifles and liquor to the Cheyenne, Arapahoe,
Kiowa, Ute, Sioux, Crow and Comanche for valuable furs and buffalo skins,
Jimmy's Camp was a key stop on the shortest trail (aka Trappers' Trail,
Cherokee Trail, et al) below the Front Range from Bent's Fort on the Arkansas
River through what later became Pueblo and Denver up to Fort Laramie,
Wyoming, where it joined the Oregon Trail. Bent's Fort, also established
in 1833, was just five miles east of today's city of La Junta--"the
junction" of the Santa Fe and Navajo Trails. Kit Carson worked there
as a hunter and scout.
In 1843 the famous explorer Captain John Charles Fremont described our
area as "black masses of timber," and drew a sketch of it with
the mountains in the background.
The 1858 discovery of gold along Cherry Creek caused both the 1859 Colorado
Gold Rush ("Pike's Peak or Bust") and the founding of Denver.
It also initiated the flow of frustrated gold miners and covered-wagon
pioneers who settled along Monument Creek, which parallels I-25 just to
the west of us on Air Force Academy property. With the establishment of
Colorado City in early 1859, the two-day Colorado City-Denver stagecoach
route began on May 1, 1859, passing nearby about where today's North Gate
Road intersects Highway 83. As population grew along Monument Creek, the
stagecoach was routed up what's now 30th Street, passing Garden of the
Gods, coming out what's now Woodmen Road, and then following Monument
Creek northward. By the time of the Civil War, small ranches were scattered
around northern El Paso County, raising livestock & grain and logging
in what is today's Black Forest.
Having been offered most of the Colorado plains by the 1851 Treaty of
Fort Laramie--which the U.S. Senate never ratified but which to them was
a fine point--by 1863 the Cheyenne and Arapahoe lost their sense of humor
over the settlers inspired by the Gold Rush ("the only good Indian
is a dead Indian") and by the new Homestead Act of 1862, and began
attacking them. So in 1864 Governor John Evans issued a proclamation ordering
Indians to assemble at four locations near Army forts. After some 500
had done exactly as ordered, gathering at Sand Creek forty miles northwest
of Fort Lyon (near today's city of Lamar), on November 29, 1864 the Third
Colorado Volunteers under Colonel John M. Chivington, including men from
El Paso County, surprised the Sand Creek Indian camp and killed &
mutilated over 150 (mostly women and children) of the 500 Indians present.
Following this event described by a U.S. Congress joint committee report
as a "foul and dastardly massacre," Indian attacks continued
On September 1, 1868, Cheyenne and Arapahoe war parties killed several
men around the tiny town of Husted (HYUsted), established in 1866 along
Monument Creek by homesteading sawmill operator Calvin R. Husted, about
900 yards south of today's Air Force Academy North Gate. In 1869 the Walker
family built a Husted house roughly at the North Gate.
In October 1871, General Palmer's Denver & Rio Grande Railroad ran
its first train southward from Denver, along Monument Creek through Husted,
to the civilized town of Colorado Springs that the General established
that same year downhill from the more raucous mining-camp support town
of Colorado City. To attract high-class tourists, Palmer built a destination
hotel just uphill from his train station in Colorado Springs, naming
it The Antlers. This short-grass prairie area below the mountains essentially
had no trees beyond the cottonwoods along Fountain Creek, so Palmer had
many planted, which is why the attractive older sections of avenues like
Nevada and Cascade are lined with huge, beautiful trees today.
In 1876, Colorado became the 38th state of the Union. And the next year,
1887, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad put down a competing
parallel track from Pueblo up to Denver, part of which was pulled up beginning
in 1982 to make the 15-mile New Santa Fe Trail we hike along today from
the Academy up to Palmer Lake.
The town of Husted grew on railroad business, as wood-fired/steam-powered
sawmills proliferated in what General Palmer called "the Pinery"
(today's Black Forest) to supply railroad ties as well as firewood to
power the trains' steam engines. By the 1890s, Husted's population rose
to 75, taking advantage of the railroads to ship out lumber used to build
much of Colorado Springs, mine timbers, meat, grains (corn, wheat, rye)
and dairy products from local ranches, and potatoes that grow well in
our sandy soil. The town had a general store, post office, saloon, church,
and round-house for helper engines added to pull loaded trains up the
steep grade to Palmer Lake, where they'd be taken back off the trains
and returned to their base at Husted.
The Palmer Divide is the local high ground running from mountainside Palmer
Lake through Monument Hill and out to the southeast, which splits the
South Platte River watershed northward to Denver from the Arkansas River
watershed southward to Pueblo. The Divide rises high enough from the surrounding
landscape to pull down added moisture from passing fronts--enabling Black
Forest ponderosa pine growth amidst the surrounding short-grass prairie.
This altitude also contributes to temperatures somewhat lower than Colorado
Springs, so in winter the added moisture means added snow.
By 1894, southern Colorado--especially our Palmer Divide area--became
one of the nation's major potato-growing regions, with some 20,000 acres
producing about 2,000 railcars of potatoes per year. About 1900, the KK
Ranch alone produced 36 railcars of them. Nearby neighbor Betty Steppler
recalls that the family farm on Steppler Road, a couple miles northeast
of Sun Hills, used to ship at least a railcar of potatoes each year out
of Husted or Monument--potatoes planted and harvested behind a four-horse
team. The potato beetle knocked down the potato business in our immediate
neighborhood by the 1960s, but in your grocery store you'll find bags
of them from the Canon City and Brighton areas.
Related Agricultural Digression: You might want to give potatoes
a try in your garden. In a good year they can get real big, along with
apples, pears, cherries, asparagus, corn, tomatoes, onions, zucchini,
squash, pumpkins, cucumbers and carrots grown here successfully by neighbors.
Periodic dry years and our area's infamous late-spring/early-autumn frosts,
along with various bugs and fungi, can spoil some of these garden goodies,
but you'll find enthusiastic gardeners in the neighborhood, happy to share
their successes (and, when the season is right, their excess produce...).
The Mining Museum curator's farmhouse, which you see when you drive by
(the beautiful main museum building is farther back on the 27-acre site,
behind the trees), was built in 1894 by Joseph and Sarah Reynolds from
Pennsylvania, who would have known their Husted neighbors well, as they
bought the land in 1889 and he was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives
in 1891. So we have this one tangible tie to pioneers who lived in our
Interestingly, as Colorado Springs grew with the automobile, Husted shrank
with the railroads--and with the stripping of marketable trees from Fremont's
"black masses of timber." On October 15, 1920 the Colorado Springs
post office took over the work of the Husted post office. By 1941, Husted
had only six residents. In 1956, the U.S. Government bought the last remnants
of Husted for $551.25, and completed razing of the town during construction
of the North Gate area.
Husted contributed to the shrinking of the railroads with two major head-on
train wrecks nearby. The one on August 20, 1909 occurred on what is now
the grounds of the Air Force Academy, killing 11 people and injuring 56.
The one on August 14, 1914 killed a number of people including helper-engine
fireman Jack Gossage, who had just waved to his wife upon passing their
Husted home. The unfortunate Jack, pinned at his post between engine and
tender, was a grandfather of famous baseball pitcher Goose Gossage, who
played for various teams 1972-94, including the New York Yankees, and
who's active in Colorado Springs today.
You can see some remains of the East Husted station (razed in 1955) on
the former Santa Fe RR line by walking 3/4 mile southward from the North
Gate along the New Santa Fe Trail (public trail parking lot next to the
North Gate). A trail marker points out the still-visible concrete base
of the station site. You can see a few remains of West Husted--the main
part of town, on the east side of the still-active Denver & Rio Grande
RR track--by walking 100 yards westward from the same North Gate parking
lot to the bridge over Monument Creek and down to the gravel road below
(look up and see hundreds of cliff swallow mud nests under the bridge),
then following that road southward 1/2 mile, alongside both Monument Creek
and the active (be careful) Denver & Rio Grande RR track.
Along this walk you pass the Dead Man's Canyon area of Monument Creek,
where in the rough early pioneer days cattle rustlers and horse thieves
once were hanged (you are in the American West...). In later years, during
Prohibition, the canyons of today's Air Force Academy sheltered a number
of bootleg whiskey stills. You'll also notice the layered clay soil holding
up the canyon walls. In 1927, the enterprising Mr. Will Shoemaker appreciated
this thick clay along Monument Creek at Husted enough to open a clay pit
that shipped a railcar-load of clay per day to the Standard Fire Brick
Company of Pueblo.
You'll see a lot of wild foxes walking around, both red and silver. A
rising fur fashion in the Roaring Twenties caused local folks to observe
that our cool climate induces nice thick coats on foxes. So fox farms
sprang up all around the Black Forest area and in the valleys of what
is now the Air Force Academy. During the 1930s and 1940s, hundreds of
thousands of fox pelts were produced locally each year. In 1937, Mr. Shelby's
Black Forest farm alone shipped 200,000 furs. Then in the late '40s a
trade agreement with the Soviet Union flooded the U.S. market with communist
pelts and killed off the Colorado fox farms. Disenchanted local patriots
obviously let some get away....
Home of the U.S. Air Force Academy. In 1950, when
the Service Academy Board recommended that an Air Force Academy be built
(and 580 sites were proposed in 45 states), our neighborhood consisted
essentially of cattle ranches raising mostly Herefords & Angus. Big
Midwest corn farmers liked to stay at the Broadmoor, in the still-small
town of Colorado Springs, while buying calves to ship home for fattening
and later sale to Chicago packing houses. Most local ranches were small--the
Academy's present 18,455 acres were pulled together by a State of Colorado
Acquisition Commission from 135 separately-owned properties. The June
24, 1954 front page of the Colorado Springs Free Press splashed the news
of Colorado Springs' selection to host the new Academy. Local excitement
was tremendous, and building lots in Palmer Lake shot up from the then-going
price of ten dollars. At Denver's Lowry AFB on July 11, 1955, the Class
of 1959 was assembled as 306 young men were sworn in to be the first cadets.
In August 1958, the Cadet Wing moved into the Rampart Range campus.
Sun Hills. But just before the cadets came here,
on April 9, 1958, one George E. Hardesty, listed as owner of land to be
called Sun Hills Subdivision No. 1, filed a plat with the El Paso County
Clerk & Recorder, paying a fee of $8.50.
As General Palmer was building his D&RG RR in 1870-71, associates
began acquiring wooded land in today's Black Forest area, to feed huge
railroad demand for wood. By 1885, their Colorado Pinery and Land Company
had acquired over 40,000 acres, including land all around what's now Sun
After the Colorado Pinery and Land Company expired in 1905, on March 20,
1908 a court-appointed trustee deeded to Mr. B.C. Allen some 650 acres.
Allen enlarged the ranch with other purchases.
In 1947 the Allen Ranch was bought by Channing Sweet and named by him
Escondido (Hidden Valley). Sweet later authored a book titled A Princeton
Cowboy, which describes his life as a Colorado cattleman, mentioning his
grandfather's arrival here six weeks after Colorado Springs' founding
in 1871, his grandmother's riding down from Denver on General Palmer's
first D&RG RR passenger train that year, his own boyhood rides on
the streets of Denver with neighbor and inventor F.O. Stanley in his "Stanley
Steamer" (which had the power to climb any hill and thus gained popularity),
and his father's being Governor of Colorado 1923-25.
In 1950 George and Stella Hardesty (Stella Drive) moved here from near
Raton, NM (Raton Road) and bought from Channing Sweet 1600 acres @ $50/acre
(which Sweet wrote was twice what he'd paid for it) what is now Sun Hills,
Gleneagle, and Pleasant View Estates. The Hardestys raised registered
Herefords, and called the property Pleasant View Hereford Ranch, which
is why some of us have the remains of old cattle pens and loading chutes
on our lots. They moved into the Sweet house on Smith Creek that sits
under big beautiful cottonwoods--still there with its pond and brick silo
on Spring Valley Drive, just south of Fox Run Park. They bought another
600 acres between today's Roller Coaster Road and Highway 83, north of
North Gate Road, then later in the 1950s sold much of this 600 acres,
including what is now Shamrock Ranch.
After Stella Hardesty died in 1957, George asked Max and Oleta Goodrich
to move down from Denver to live at the ranch with him, and they stayed
with George for five years. Upon coming here in 1957, Mrs. Goodrich recalls
that Fillmore was the northernmost street in Colorado Springs.
Soon after Sun Hills was born in 1958, it grew to 147 lots of five acres
each, particularly as Air Force buddies associated with the new Academy
and the North American Air Defense Command down in Colorado Springs called
each other to share the good news of five acres of Colorado, minutes from
the new campus, available for $3,000 or less. By agreement with George
Hardesty, ownership of Sun Hills passed through a Subchapter S corporation
(limited partnership) composed of five active-duty Air Force officers
working at NORAD, who pursued the platting-out of today's Sun Hills, sold
the platted lots by word of mouth mostly around the Air Force, and paid
Mr. Hardesty for the land out of sales receipts. George E. Brown became
CEO of the Sun Hills Corporation, later retiring as a Major General. The
majority of lots initially were bought by Air Force officers, including
General Earle Partridge, the first CINCNORAD ('57-'59), who bought Lot
3 between Sun Hills Drive and Rangely Road. The five partners received
one Sun Hills lot apiece, plus the undeveloped land west of Sun Hills,
which would later become Gleneagle.
That same year, 1958, our neighbor and early Sun Hills Architectural Control
Committee Chairman Joe Greco bought the lot on
Silverton Road where he lived until he sadly passed away in 2004. Joe
had flown over in a B-25 bomber to check out the neighborhood and select
a lot. The Grecos had their Silverton home built in 1972. Their contractor,
whom Joe asked to build this first new "Sun Hills" house from
a simple diagram Joe provided, was the same Max Goodrich who'd lived for
years on the Hardesty ranch. The Grecos, being in Connecticut, never saw
the house until after it was completed. How's that for trusting your builder?
Dave Weber, whose family also moved into their new house on the corner
of Sun Hills Drive and Rangely later in 1972, recalls seeing elk and antelope
in the neighborhood, and being deployed to Vietnam leaving behind wife
and children in a Sun Hills home on a gravel road with no electricity
or telephone. The local pioneer spirit lived on....
Gleneagle. As the five Air Force officers comprising the Sun Hills
Corporation retired or were reassigned from NORAD to elsewhere in the
country, they completed the selling of Sun Hills lots but in 1970 decided
to sell their undeveloped westward property to the Donala Corporation,
which then developed the shopping center and golf course and began selling
lots. The recession kicked off by the tripling of oil prices with the
'73 Arab-Israeli War forced Donala into bankruptcy, though you'll still
see the name around, and the Skiland Corp took over in November 1973.
But they did nothing with the land, and in January 1984 the Gleneagle
Association LTD (named for a famous English golf course) purchased the
remaining vacant lots. In May 1992, in turn, the Bethesda Corporation
purchased remaining lots. Finally, in January 1995, with a majority of
lots represented, the Gleneagle Civic Association took control of managing
the covenants that protect owners of Gleneagle property, and does so today.
Pleasant View Estates. In the early 1960s George
Hardesty decided to move to California to live with his nephew, and sold
the remaining 400+ acres of his ranch to local chiropractor Bob &
Georgia McCollom and their partners Ed and Peggy Morast. Bob McCollom
took the lead in developing Pleasant View Estates, naming Stella Drive
after George Hardesty's wife, and building his first Pleasant View Estates
house at the corner of Stella and Raton. Dr. and Mrs. McCollom's children
Becky, Tari and Deby have streets named after them just southwest of Fox
Homeowners. The Sun Hills Association articles
of incorporation, under the Colorado Nonprofit Corporation Act, were notarized
October 18, 1982. The Association was formed to assist the burgeoning
numbers of new residents and to help ensure compliance with the covenants
that protect the Sun Hills community's beauty and quality--appointing
a similar Architectural Control Committee made up of volunteer residents,
which faithfully does its job for all of us today. When the Northern El
Paso County Coalition of Community Associations, Inc. (NEPCO) was formed
in the year 2000, to help coordinate homeowner interests in the area,
the Sun Hills Association was an early and active member.
And Again the Land. As fast-growing Colorado Springs
brings its professional and shopping opportunities northward toward Sun
Hills, along with its traffic, our five-acre zoning, strong covenants,
beautiful nearby Fox Run Park, trails and open spaces protect the natural
spaciousness and quiet that allow us still to smell the pine forest from
our front doors--to hear the breeze in the trees--and to enjoy the coyote
singing to the moon on nights so crystal clear that you can gaze bare-eyed
not only at stars, but at galaxies. Here we find deer, antelope, coyote,
fox, raccoon, porcupine, and even an occasional bear wandering through
our western country community. These normal sights, sounds and scents
of frontier America are now experienced by relatively few. We are fortunate
that they are part of our life in Sun Hills, along with the privilege
of witnessing gorgeous dawns that paint our landscape with what "purple
mountains' majesty" really means.
This always has been good-neighbor country, and it is
Improvements invited: Bill Eckert, email@example.com,
27 October 2015