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History of CC's Buildings

"Every building which is erected for a college should express in some way the end for which the institution was established. It should be the result of careful thinking and accurate adjustment to the purpose for which it exists. Each hall that has gone up on this campus is a serious attempt to solve a problem in higher education." —Pres. William F. Slocum, 1913

Founding Colorado Springs in 1871, General William Jackson Palmer envisioned a place of beauty, culture, and substance that would benefit both the body and spirit of its residents. Twenty acres in the townsite set aside for a college represented an integral part of Palmer's plan. Established only three years later, Colorado College was a coeducational institution with ties to Palmer, the local community, and the Congregational Church. During its early years, the college struggled for financial viability, surviving through the generosity of wealthy eastern friends. Under the leadership of Edward P. Tenney (1876-84), the school gained its first permanent building, Cutler Hall, an 1880 stone structure designed by the nationally prominent architecture firm of Peabody and Stearns. All of the college functions took place in its classrooms, laboratories, offices, and a small auditorium.

In 1888, the arrival of President William F. Slocum ushered in an era of physical expansion, increased student population, and faculty development. An indefatigable fundraiser, Slocum successfully tapped into a network of eastern benefactors and local millionaires to support campus improvements. To attract enrollment from beyond the city boundaries, the college needed student dormitories. The first, 1889 Hagerman Hall, a Romanesque Revival style building constructed of peachblow sandstone, provided residential facilities for men. The college adopted the cottage system for its women's residences, creating dormitories that resembled large single-family homes, including Montgomery Hall (1891), Ticknor Hall (1898), McGregor Hall (1903), and Bemis Hall (1908). The Woman's Educational Society played a major role in planning and raising the funds for the four halls, which were designed by Colorado architects using native stone.

The college directly benefited from the tremendous wealth generated by gold-producing Cripple Creek in the 1890s and early twentieth century. Academic buildings rose around campus in rapid succession, including Coburn Library and Wolcott Observatory in 1894, Perkins Hall for art and music in 1899, and Palmer Hall in 1904 (of these, only Palmer Hall still stands.) Palmer Hall, a massive peachblow sandstone building planned by Andrews, Jacques, and Rantoul of Boston, housed the science departments of the college and reflected the latest thinking in laboratory and lecture hall layout. Erected at the north end of campus, blocking any future extension of Tejon Street, Palmer became "a civic monument, formally linking the city and the college."

Frederick H. Cossitt Memorial Hall, designed by Denver architect Maurice Biscoe and completed in 1914, addressed the overwhelming demand for men's athletic facilities and the popularity of physical culture in education. Constructed of Castle Rock rhyolite and concrete, the building included a gymnasium, indoor basketball court, locker rooms, and a Greek-inspired oval outdoor bowl, as well as offices, lounges, and a large dining room where all men on campus took their meals. In the same year, the college gained a separate administration building when trustee Judson M. Bemis donated the Willis S. Montgomery house. Slocum, hailed as "the college builder," departed in 1917 with 14 permanent buildings and an enrollment of roughly 700 students to his credit.

Following the completion of Cossitt Hall, the college built no new facilities for 17 years. Additional buildings were acquired through the gift or purchase of some of the large private residences adjacent to the campus, a process later described as "The Growth That Nobody Saw." In 1936, the estate of William Lennox, a millionaire Cripple Creek mining investor, donated his house on North Nevada Avenue to the college. Lennox House served as the first formal student center at Colorado College.

An 1874 plan for the campus had envisioned a centrally-located chapel, but the construction of academic, residential, and athletic facilities took priority. For many years, religious services occurred in auditoriums in classroom buildings and the library. Eugene P. Shove's donation of $316,000 for construction of a non-denominational place of worship to honor the memory of his American and English clergymen ancestors permitted the erection of a permanent building in 1930-31. Scottish-born architect John Gray of Pueblo, devoted himself to the design of the limestone building, paying meticulous attention to the details of ornamentation. Inspired by the architecture of Winchester Cathedral, won a national architectural competition to secure the commission for the building's design, and it is considered his finest work. The chapel was completed in 1931 and its construction provided an important source of income for its Colorado Springs builders during the Great Depression. Shove houses a 40,000-pound Welte-Tripp concert pipe organ. A representative of the Welte-Tripp Organ Company stated that the instrument was the "finest organ ever built by our organization." Shove Memorial Chapel represented the last freestanding building erected of stone on the campus.

Jackson House (1900) was given to the college by longtime trustee Judson Bemis in 1917. Lennox House (1900), now also called the Glass House, was gifted to the college by longtime trustee William Lennox in 1936. The college purchased Haskell House (1927) and Arthur House (1881) in 1961 and 1962, respectively, and acquired the Plaza Hotel (1900), now called Spencer Center, in 1991.

Construction in the era after World War II introduced new architectural styles, designers, and materials to the campus. In the 1950s and 1960s, some of the historic stone buildings were razed, including Hagerman Hall, Coburn Library, Perkins Hall, and Wolcott Observatory. Replacing them were new facilities, such as the 1962 Tutt Library by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, who also designed the U.S. Air Force Academy. New residence halls, classroom buildings, and athletic facilities also appeared. The college continued to acquire additional historic buildings located adjacent to the campus, including Haskell House and Arthur House for use as residence halls, and the former Plaza Hotel (now the Spencer Center) for offices.

Lasting Legacy

Colorado College now possesses one of the largest collections of historic buildings in Colorado. To develop a plan for carefully stewarding these properties, in 1993 the college commissioned Manning Architects to conduct a survey of 97 of its buildings. Of those surveyed, 69 (or 76%) were found to be historically significant.

Over the last decade, Colorado College has worked to add some of its most significant buildings to the National Register of Historic Places and the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties. Currently, 12 of the buildings (italicized above) are on the National Register and Jackson House is on the State Register. The college is eligible to apply to the Colorado Historical Society's State Historical Fund for grants to support historic preservation work on buildings with these historic designations. Since 1997, the college has been awarded more than $1.5 million from the State Historical Fund to address restoration work on several buildings, including Bemis Hall, Cutler Hall, Palmer Hall, Jackson House, Lennox House, and the Plaza Hotel (Spencer Center). Since 1993, these grants having been combined with more than $1.5 million in matching funds from the college's own coffers, have allowed the college to address pressing exterior preservation work in a more comprehensive and historically sensitive manner than otherwise would have been possible. Colorado College's preservation of these buildings ensures that the legacy of past generations continues to inspire today's students.