Friday, April 22, 2011

Hidden Cabin to Lost Cabin

In late1885, the Hill family built a cabin sheltered by large boulders for Alice M. Hill, and she moved into it to homestead 160 acres in Crystal Park.  About a week afterward, the cabin burned completely.  In March of 1886, Alice moved into a rebuilt cabin on the same site.  Below is a photo of that cabin, taken in 1886.

The cabin was abandoned later that year when the Hill family left Crystal Park, after selling their holdings to John Hay.  Alice's cabin and surrounding 160 acres were sold to Hay for $600.
As the cabin deteriorated over the years, it went from being known as the "Hidden Cabin" to the "Lost Cabin.

Photo taken in June, 1914, of the party of the famous evangelist Billy Sunday (5th from left) at the Hidden Cabin.

Hidden Cabin in the 1930's

Well on its way to becoming the Lost Cabin in 1990
The Crystal Park Historical Committee has installed a brass marker at the site, which is near the end of Lost Cabin Road, as eventually what remains of the cabin will disappear.  Below is a recent photo of the site, which appears much as it did in the 1990 photo.

Monday, April 18, 2011

1886 Wedding in Crystal Park

According to a manuscript by Francis W. Cragin, a geology professor at Colorado College from 1891 to 1902, this is a photo from September, 1886 of the wedding party of Mary Amelia Hill and Rev. T.H. Acheson (of Pittsburgh).  The Hill family were some of the earliest settlers in Crystal Park.  This is the home of Alexander McLeod Hill; Mary was his oldest daughter.  The house is described by Cragin  as "a four-room story-and-a-half house, substantially built of squared logs, having two rooms in the main part below and one large room above, besides a fourth in the addition on the rear.  There was a tent kitchen."  He also describes "a magnificent pine tree" near the house that the Hills christened "The Queen of the Valley".  Although the exact location of the house is unknown today, it was about a mile from the Gateway, up what Cragin called "Happy Valley".  Looking at the photo, could this be near the beginning of present-day Methuselah Rd. and the big tree in the background the "Methuselah Tree"? 

Present in this photo, according to Cragin: the seven people nearest the door are Mr. and Mrs. Hill and their five children. The bride and groom are not specifically identified. In front of the window to the left are Col. John G. Nicolay and his daughter Helene.  Nicolay and John Hay were President Lincoln's Secretaries during the Civil War and wrote parts of their biography of Lincoln in Crystal Park (see the entry on John Hay below).

Sunday, April 17, 2011

1940's Brochure

This brochure is from shortly after WWII, and is from a period where ownership of Crystal Park changed several times in rapid succession.  It was at this time that the present-day clubhouse was constructed, to be used as a ski lodge.  Two ski runs were built on the slope uphill from the "lodge" and a rope tow was installed.  Little evidence remains today.  The brochure's map uses many of the names of various points along the road as were used in the original descriptions from 1910 onward.

Note that there are several inaccuracies in this brochure.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Pikes Peak Railway and Improvement Company

 At the beginning of the 1880’s, James Hutchinson Kerr, a professor and Trustee at Colorado College, had the idea to build a railroad to the top of Pikes Peak. In 1883 he formed the Pikes Peak Railway and Improvement Company with himself as President, Major John Hulbert of Manitou Springs as Vice President, and other leading citizens of Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs as Officers and Directors.  Kerr wrote a prospectus and enlisted the Wall Street firm of Grant & Ward, in which former President U.S. Grant and his son were major partners, to handle the financing. 
The company purchased a 100 ft. wide right-of-way to build a 30 mile long, narrow gauge railroad to the top of Pikes Peak through Crystal Park.  The right-of-way was engineered and graded nine miles from Manitou Springs before the project was abandoned due to a financial panic which bankrupted Grant & Ward (and President Grant personally) in May, 1884.  Railroad Grade Road and part of the present day Crystal Park Road above the present-day Railroad Grade intersection follow the old right-of-way. 
In 1891, the Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway (the “Cog”) was opened, with Major John Hulbert as President, and Kerr’s dream of a railway through Crystal Park was dead.  Had this project been completed, Crystal Park would be a very different place today.

James Hutchinson Kerr

President U.S. Grant

Company Prospectus - pgs. 1 & 2

Company Prospectus - pgs. 3 & 4

Example of Narrow Gauge Engine ca.1885

Letterhead showing Company Officers and Directors.  This was an early form, as the name was later "Railway" instead of "Railroad".

Additional Information

There are still pieces of the old graded right-of-way in existence in Crystal Park (in addition to Railroad Grade Road and some of Crystal Park Road), especially on Sugarloaf Mt.  Below is a photo taken this past summer of a retaining wall built in the early 1880's for the railway (person included for scale).


Friday, April 15, 2011

John Hay and Crystal Park

JOHN HAY (1838 – 1905)

John Hay was a statesman, diplomat, author, journalist and private secretary to Abraham Lincoln.

He became a secretary to Lincoln at age 22.  He was Lincoln’s friend, confidant, companion and doer of odd jobs.  He lived in the northwest corner bedroom on the second floor of the White House, a room he shared with fellow secretary and future co-author John G. Nicolay.  Hay was present when Lincoln died after being shot at the theater in Washington.

Hay first came to Crystal Park in 1883, and, like many others, he was immediately taken with it’s beauty, eventually buying most of what is now the Upper Park, which he owned until his death in 1905.  Hay spent several summers in the Park, and Nicolay visited him here on a number of occasions.  Portions of their definitive ten-volume work on the life of Lincoln (Abraham Lincoln: A History, published in 1890) were written in Hay’s cabin, which stood at the Gateway (entrance to the Upper Park).

In 1897, President William McKinley appointed John Hay Ambassador to the United Kingdom.  In August of 1898, he was named Secretary of State, a post he held under both McKinley and President Theodore Roosevelt until Hay’s death in 1905.  His contributions to the United States included negotiating over 50 treaties, developing the Open Door policy in China, and preparations for the construction and usage of the Panama Canal.  Hay also was a writer and poet of some renown, and was one the first seven people chosen for membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1904.

Hay’s Cabin in 1907.  Note the burro in the background.  This was before the road to Crystal Park was completed.  Burro trips from Manitou were a common way for tourists and visitors to get to the Park

Hay's cabin sometime around 1890 (estimate)

John Hay 1904

John G. Nicolay, Abraham Lincoln, John Hay.  Taken by Alexander Gardner in
Washington D. C. on November 8, 1863, 11 days before the Gettysburg Address.
Photo of John Hay taken during the Civil War by Matthew Brady, the most famous
photographer of the time.
Notice in the New York Times on November 8, 1908, regarding the sale of Crystal Park for $40,000 and plans to build a hotel and other improvements.  This is one of many plans for the Park that never materialized.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Auto Road Opened to Private Cars

Starting in 1913, private cars were allowed up the Auto Road - for a fee.  $3.00 was a serious amount of money in 1913.
Part of an Auto Trip brochure, ca. 1915

1919 Brochure

In 1919, after the bankruptcy of the Crystal Park Company and a series of financial machinations by various groups, the Auto Road was consolidated with the Pikes Peak Cog Railway.  The following picture and description are from a brochure (ca. 1919) for both attractions.

1950's Brochure

This is a Crystal Park brochure from, we believe, the 1950's, as it states that Crystal Park is "open" after 30 years.  It shows that there was a ski slope with rope tow lift, and that what's now the Clubhouse existed, with at least part of the covered deck.  Snowplow Rock had not fallen yet.

If anyone can date this brochure more precisely, let us know through an email to

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tour Group Photos ca. 1910 - 1915

When tour groups went up the road they made a stop in the vicinity of where present-day Lower and Upper Vista Roads are located.  There was a photographer stationed above the road.  The tour group exited the car and stood in front of it and a photo was taken.  On the downhill return, the proofs were ready and they could go home with their souvenir photo, appropriately dated.  Here are some examples:

In this photo there are three Crystal Park vehicles lined up for photos and a private car stopped headed downhill.

This is not one of the professional "souvenir" photos like the others, but rather a personal photo taken by a tour participant.  It was taken at the "Gateway" at the top of the road, where the pavement ends today.  Dated Aug,1913.

The Waterfall frozen - ca.1915

Stewart Bros. Auto Trip Brochure - 1911