A bristling military presence, elegant homes and public buildings of Colorado Springs, the well-preserved resort town of Manitou Springs, and Colorado's ultimate resort hotel distinguish El Paso County's built environment. One of the original counties of 1861, El Paso emerged as a series of towns along the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. Railroads, ranching, and resorts initially attracted investors, settlers, tourists, and health seekers. I-25, which follows the north-south route the D&RG blazed through the county in the 1870s, serves as the modern development corridor.
Between World War II and the 1980s, the county struck gold in defense dollars spent at Fort Carson, Peterson Air Force Base, the North American Air Defense Command, the Air Force Academy, and the Consolidated Space Operation Center. A recent boom in high tech industries has also helped make Colorado Springs the second largest city in the state.
The county includes 14,110-foot Pikes Peak and its extensive foothills and spectacular stone formations, epitomized by the Garden of the Gods. West of “the Springs” on Colorado 24 (the old Colorado Midland Railroad route), are Manitou Springs and smaller communities such as Cascade and Green Mountain Falls. A dozen agricultural hamlets linger on the high plains. Their simple architectural honesty is an antidote to tourist attractions such as Santa's Workshop and North Pole and the fake Manitou Cliff Dwellings.
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