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Our History

In the early years, before there existed so much as a permanent building, Colorado College gathered a small faculty whose roots ran to traditional New England scholarship. Today’s faculty, although more diverse philosophically, still balances teaching and scholarship as the college’s traditional strength. Established in 1874 as a coeducational institution two years before Colorado became a state, CC's history is a long and proud one.

A New College in a New City

In 1871, General William Jackson Palmer, founder of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, laid out the city of Colorado Springs along his new line from Denver. Envisioning a model city, he reserved land and contributed funds for a college, which was to open May 6, 1874.

The college’s first building, Cutler Hall, was occupied in 1880; the first bachelor’s degrees were conferred in 1882. Under President William F. Slocum, who served from 1888 to 1917, the campus took the shape it held until the 1950s. During this time, the college reached scholarly maturity, especially by significantly expanding and improving the library’s holdings and by attracting leading scholars in a number of fields. Phi Beta Kappa was chartered in 1904.

Campus Flourishes

Since the mid-1950s, the campus has been virtually rebuilt. New facilities include three large residence halls, Worner Campus Center, Tutt Library, Olin Hall of Science and the Barnes Science Center, Honnen Ice Rink, Boettcher Health Center, Schlessman Pool, Armstrong Hall of Humanities, Palmer Hall, El Pomar Sports Center, and Packard Hall of Music and Art. The Gaslight Plaza Building, previously known as the Plaza Hotel and the Plaza Building, was purchased by the college in March 1991 and was renamed the William I. Spencer Center in public ceremonies on October 5, 1991, to honor the retiring charter trustee and board chairman. Bill Spencer served on the board from 1967 until 1991 and was chair from 1984 to 1991. The building houses development, communications, and human resources. Turn-of-the-century Bemis, Cossitt, Cutler, Montgomery, and Palmer Halls, and the William I. Spencer Center are on the National Register of Historic Places.

21st Century Construction and Modernization

The face of campus changed again at the beginning of the 21st century with construction of the Western Ridge Housing Complex, which offers apartment-style living for upper-division students and completion of the Russell T. Tutt Science Center; as well as the revitalization of the east campus, now home to the Greek Quad and several “theme” houses. Furthermore, the Edith Kinney Gaylord Cornerstone Arts Center opened in 2008, as an interdisciplinary arts building allowing for innovative, experimental, and collaborative projects in a unique space with state-of-the-art technology.

Academic Development

Perhaps more significant than the physical development of the campus is its academic vigor. The college’s curriculum includes a number of special programs: Southwest studies, feminist and gender studies, Asian studies, biochemistry, environmental sciences, neuroscience, Latin American studies, Russian and Eurasian studies, and race and ethnic studies, as well as a strong across-the-curriculum writing program, and a thriving Summer Session.

Visually, Cutler Hall and the mountain view are about all that remain of the college’s physical beginnings, but the changes cannot obscure real continuities. Colorado College remains dedicated to the traditional principles of a liberal arts and sciences education as envisioned by its founders more than 125 years ago.