Some History of the Cascade Victorians

Photos from the Ute Pass Historical Society

The Cascade Ranger Station, Caretaker's Cottage and the Olde Poste Cottage are an integral part of part of South Central Colorado’s rich late 19th and early 20th century history. The photo on the left is of Cascade in 1912. Surviving structures are:

1 - The Ranger Station
2 - Caretaker's Cottage
3 - Olde Poste (before being moved to its present location)
4 - Serenity Club (formerly Red Cloud Inn)

Ute Pass skirts the east to north flanks of Pikes Peak and climbs about 3,000 feet from Manitou Springs to its summit at the Hayman Divide (where the Woods live at 9300 ft). In the photo above, you can see the Ute Pass Trail about where Highway 24 is today.  The Ute Pass Trail began as a bison trail that connected the western prairies with the meadows of South ParkEl Paso (Spanish for "the pass") County was named for the Ute Pass Trail, worn into a road by migrating Indians traveling with horses and dragging their teepee poles up and down the Pass.  Mountain men, explorers and prospectors hauling freight wagons expanded it to a wagon road.

The Ranger Station (right of flagpole) was the headquarters of the Ute Pass area’s forest and wildlife management. The Caretaker's Cottage (on left) is the only nearby building that remains today.

The Cascade Post Office opened on August 16, 1887.   What is now the Olde Poste Cottage served as the Post-Mistress’ residence and center of local communication for many years. 

As we’ve worked to restore the Olde Poste, the Caretaker's Cottage and the Ranger Station, many local residents have stopped by to reminisce and relate their childhood memories:  “My grandmother was a post-mistress at the Post Office.”  “My grandfather, a Russian immigrant, planted those trees.” “My sister and I played in the front yard.”  “My grandparents lived in the Ranger Station.”

We've greatly enjoyed capturing these bits of local history. Other small vestiges of the past remain: rails from the Midland Railway are at the side of the driveway. Framed pictures of the Ute Indians decorate our walls. (The Ute Pass Historical Society has provided photos).

Cascade, the first town on the Highway 24 Ute Pass corridor, is named for Fountain Creek’s cascades and small waterfalls.  Once the wagon road was built to replace the old Ute Trail, resort cabins and inns sprang up along the Pass to take advantage of early tourists and explorers seeking the wilderness falls, as well as a route to Pikes Peak. In the late 1800’s, this community became the site of summer homes for the influential.  Low-lander Kansans and Coloradans would travel the wagon road to escape the hot and dusty plains of summer and cool in the shady forests and streams of Ute Pass.

When the Colorado Midland Railway laid its tracks through the valley in 1887 and established stations, water tanks and eating houses, most of the areas small inns were replaced by several fabulous and ornate hotels. The longest lasting hotel was the Hotel Ramona in Cascade.  Opened in 1889, the 3-story Ramona had distinctive a striped, conical dome tower, round turrets and surrounding verandas.

The Hotel Ramona sat up the ridge above Highway 24, just south of the old Cascade House, somewhere between the Fountain Avenue traffic lights and the Wines of Colorado restaurant. It hosted regular Saturday night dances, entertained by elite orchestras. 

However, by the end of its 31 years of operation, it was a wooden firetrap. So, in 1920 the new owner, Chicago billboard king Thomas Cusack, razed it so that he could build a smaller hotel of Spanish design.  Unfortunately, Mr. Cusack, the founder of the Marigreen Pines Estate, died before the project could break ground.  

The Utes: The present residents of Ute Pass were preceded long before by the Ute Indians.  The Utes are the only Native Americans indigenous to the State of Colorado. They are believed to be one of the first North American aboriginal groups to use horses in great numbers. Though regarded as "generally friendly," the Ute Nation sometimes fought with their traditional enemies, the Plains’ Apache, Navajo and Comanche tribes.  On some occasions, the Utes met in peace with the Plains Indians at the place where the spirit of the “Great God Manitou” lived in the bubbling springs at what is now Manitou Springs.
Mounted Ute hunting parties traveled long distances to hunt buffalo, elk, deer, antelope and mountain sheep. Summers were spent in the mountains gathering fruits and grain. Grinding stones found at the Garden of the Gods suggest that groups would gather there after their hunts for pow-wows and to process their meat and tan hides.
Ouray became chief of the Uncompahgre Tribe of the Ute Nation at only 17. Because of his diverse background and mastery of Spanish, English and the different dialects of the Ute language, Chief Ouray was instrumental to Ute communications with the incoming Easterners, including those with the "Great White Father" in Washington D.C.  Ouray and his wife Chipeta traveled to Washington for land and treaty negotiations and met with Presidents Grant and Hayes.  Under Ouray's leadership, the Utes were friendly to Colorado newcomers as the U.S. government negotiated treaties to “share” Ute land. Among the several treaties negotiated was the 1862 Kit Carson Treaty (Carson was a close friend of Ouray), which was promptly broken when gold, silver and copper were discovered in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.
In 1879 a small group of Utes finally retaliated against their treatment in what is known as the "Meeker Massacre". As a consequence of this incident, Chipeta and several Ute chiefs were almost lynched in Alamosa while boarding a train for Washington, D.C. By 1882, all Utes were confined on reservations.

The Utes were not allowed to return to the Pikes Peak area until 1911, when a group of Southern Utes were escorted to Colorado Springs to participate in a festival. Once again the proud mountain people rode down Ute Pass to dance and camp in the Garden of the Gods. In 1912 the Ute Pass Trail was formally dedicated in a colorful ceremony in which the Utes rode down the Trail for one last time.

Chief Ouray’s Funeral - Chief Ouray died in Utah in 1880.  Chief Ouray's body was originally buried in a secret cave. Forty five years later the US Government wanted to create a memorial to the great leader. Chipeta, a devout Christian, had died in poverty in 1924. Ute Chief Colorow, the last survivor who knew where Ouray's body was, informed the Bureau of Indian Affairs of the location. The US Government retrieved the remains of both Ouray and Chipeta and held a funeral with many dignitaries attending.  Since Chief Ouray was raised Catholic, but later converted to Protestantism, his body was laid to rest "half on the Catholic side, and half on the Protestant side” in Ignacio Cemetery, Ignacio, La Plata County.
Midland Railway: In 1888, with the Pikes Peak region secure from Indian raids and with pressure from the growing populations west of
Colorado Springs, James Hagerman put in the tracks of the Colorado Midland Railway to service the mining operations in Cripple Creek, Victor and beyond.  The railroad was difficult to operate at the best of times, and in winter it was often nearly impossible: The 1899 Blizzard closed the line over Hagerman Pass for 77 days. The ascent from Colorado Springs to Divide was also severe, with several stretches of 4% grade and extreme curves.

For years the Midland provided transportation for many local commodities and passengers.  Woodland Park served the timber industry of the Manitou Park area. Livestock was handled through Hartsel with key loading points at Florissant, Carbondale, De Beque, New Castle and Spinney.  

Midland trains hauled potatoes and lettuce from Divide and large hay tonnage from South Park.  The Santa Fe Railroad, interested in the gold discoveries at Cripple Creek, decided to exploit its new traffic opportunities. In August 1892, the Midland Terminal was incorporated with a tie-in at Divide. Although originally started as a narrow gauge line, the standard gauge Midland Terminal reached Victor in December, 1894 and Cripple Creek a year later. With large quantities of outbound ore and inbound freight of merchandise, lumber, mine timbers, coal and mining supplies adding to the traffic, two daily passenger trains were also added with through sleeper service to Denver.
After surviving the challenges of World War I, with heavy competition from the Santa Fe Railroad, the Colorado Midland was finally dismantled, deeding its right-of-ways to the State of Colorado for highway purposes.  All the company's debts were discharged, and, at the last directors meeting, April 28, 1922, the final liquidating dividend was declared, giving the investors a 135% return on their investment. Thus, in its death, the Colorado Midland finally provided the big profits that James J. Hagerman had expected it to pay when it began. Today, Midland’s railroad tracks are gone, although you can still hike some of the railroad bed along the canyon. (Two rails from the railroad remain on the left side of our driveway). The Ute Trail wagon road is now 4-lane US Highway 24 with a speed limit of 60mph on straight stretches. Woodland Park, the largest of the communities in the corridor, has six stop-lights, a Walgreens, a City Market, a Safeway and a Walmart. Civilization has come to Ute Pass.

The combined population of Cascade and Chipita Park is now about 1800, while the Green Mountain Falls community is about 800. Even so, the resort area along the Ute Pass valley with its quaint little towns have kept their own cultures and characters.  Cascade especially retains its peaceful and historic qualities.

We welcome our guests to kick back and rest a bit, take time to explore the natural wonders of the Ute Pass and the Pikes Peak region, and enjoy its many destinations and attractions. 

We trust you will have a wonderful and memorable time here.

Your hosts,

George & Lynn Wood

Gary & Nancy Vasek