Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fountain vies for the honor of State Capital

1881 Denver newspaper article
 Since the 1970s, local newspaper articles have mentioned that Fountain was at one time in the running for state capital of Colorado.  It is said that in 1859, a meeting was held in Fountain to organize a state government in the Pikes Peak region, and that in 1888, Fountain vied for political prestige as capital city.  The explosion destroyed Fountain's chances of becoming a new state capital.

I have been unable to find any documents supporting this claim, but neither have I found any documents against it.  Since none of us were there, we may never know.  Here is what I learned in the process of researching this article.

The historic site inventory conducted in El Paso County in 1976 visited the explosion site, given as either 15 yards north of the ATSF depot or along the tracks at 400 East Iowa [this would have been the D&RG line].  The author wrote "delegates from around the state were coming to Fountain, possibly to name it the new state capital, but after the explosion they only came as close as Colorado City." 

Raising the Gold-Plated Dome By Martin A. Wegner - Assistant Colorado State Archivist.  Published in The Denver Westerners Brand Book 8, 1952. Photos and Images Courtesy of the Colorado State Archives

Colorado was still a territory when the first effort got under way to erect a statehouse.  There had already been two other capital cities [Colorado City and Golden] when the Seventh Legislative Assembly met on December 9, 1867 and made Denver the official capital city.  Although Golden had been the official capital for several years, most of the government business was being transacted in Denver.   The Act of 1867 authorized Governor Hunt to appoint a three-man Capitol Commission whose first task was to secure a donation of ten acres of land suitable as a site for a capitol building.  Henry Brown offered ten acres at East Colfax and Lincoln streets; he would later build the famous Brown Palace Hotel.  

In 1867, the Territory's financial assets totaled only $25,406.  There were no funds at this time for the construction of any kind of a capitol building.

In 1876, John Evans advised that no capitol be built until statehood was achieved and the capital city was permanently located.  Colorado was soon after admitted to the Union, and its new constitution provided that the capital city was to be selected at a general election to be held in 1881.

Note that the votes from El Paso County went to Colorado Springs, Denver and Pueblo.  The "scattering" of other towns voted for is not given.

Slowly, the legal title to Brown's donated land was secured, funds were raised, and architectural plans considered.  The cornerstone for the Colorado capitol was laid in 1890.
It seems to me that the people likely to write in Fountain on the ballot were probably from the immediate vicinity.  It is also "interesting" that the story about Fountain running for state capital first appears in print in the 1970s, at least from everything I've read so far.  As a comparison, I have heard that Cripple Creek was under consideration for the capital as well, which seems unlikely given that it didn't rise to prominence until the 1890s.  

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