Manitou Springs (1871, 6,412 feet) has the natural mineral springs for which Colorado Springs is named. It was established as a resort town by Colorado Springs founder General William Palmer and Dr. William A. Bell, vice-president of the D&RG. They platted the 640-acre site as a railroad resort for the wealthy. Bell insisted on “streets and roads adapted to the contour of the ground” and lots “of large size and of necessity irregular … mostly intended for villa sites.” A shortage of buyers inspired subdivision of the original large lots to accommodate more modest dwellings.
To supplement the natural beauty of the wooded hillsides, landscape architect John Blair planned meandering roads and paths, two stone footbridges (1906–1907), and rustic seats placed to capture the views. Many of the older structures were built by the Scottish brothers Angus, Archibald, and James Gillis, who used Queen Anne prototypes found in pattern books. They used Manitou's native red sandstone and Manitou green stone, green sandstone from the Yount Quarry northwest of town, as well as limestone and pink and gray Pikes Peak granite.
By 1900 the “Saratoga of the West” boasted some fifty springs, whose “magic waters” allegedly could cure everything from heartbreak to wrinkles. During the early 1990s the Mineral Springs Foundation restored Manitou's eight public springs, bringing back not only the flowing liquid but the fanciful gazebos that sheltered the springs.
Of 1,001 buildings in the historic core of the town, 752 are deemed contributing structures in the Manitou Springs Historic District, U.S. 24 to Iron Mountain Avenue between El Paso Boulevard and Ruxton Avenue (NRD). Hospitable landmarks include Grays Avenue Hotel (1875), 711 Manitou Avenue, and the Stagecoach Inn (1880), 702 Manitou Avenue. Streamline Moderne surfaces enhance Al and Betty's Cafe, 108 Manitou Avenue, a rounded curiosity with a corner glass brick window that claims to be the “Home of the Fastest Coffee Pot in the West.” Of several Pueblo Revival motels, El Colorado Lodge (1927), 23 Manitou Avenue, is the least altered.
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