Local history, made easy as ABC (art, business and charm)

Even if I wasn’t a personal historian, I’d feel guilty about not visiting the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum more often. It’s housed inside perhaps the city’s most gorgeous building, employs nice people, and hosts programming that skillfully places Springs history into meaningful context. Oh, and admission is free.

On Saturday I checked out the museum’s Art & Facts of Business in Colorado Springs exhibit, and went on a $5 walking tour offered in conjunction with it. (Tours are offered at 10 a.m. each Saturday through the end of July.) As put by one of our tour guides, a friendly docent named Ann, both explore “our identity in business and art.”

The tour is fairly short — ours lasted 45 minutes — and really just walks you up about five blocks of Tejon Street. But done in tandem with an exhibit walk-through, it works well — especially if you luck into being hosted by someone who’s lived much of the history you’re learning about.

Enter Patrick, Saturday’s other tour guide. A Springs native with an elephant’s memory, Patrick brought the tour to life for the half-dozen people participating.

Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum tour guide points to the Hibbard building
Patrick, our tour guide, had lots to share about the old Hibbard & Co. building.

Forty-plus years after some of downtown’s finest buildings fell to urban renewal, Patrick clearly still has to work to curb his frustration. Asked about what kind of outcry there was when places like the old Burns Theater were torn down, he started an impassioned condemnation over how quickly and quietly such decisions were made back then. Then he paused, smiled, and said, “Don’t get me started.”

When we got to the old Hibbard & Co. Department Store building, Patrick explained that the railing on its roof (which I’d never noticed before) was installed for child safety. Apparently, Boy Scouts and the like were once allowed to camp up there on summer nights. On a more contemporary note, Patrick also made sure we saw the yellow footprints leading to Scottie Burgess’ miniature “Civic Treasures,” part of this year’s Art on the Streets initiative.

Some Colorado Springs history has found a home at the Pioneers Museum
Made of papier-mache, horsehair, wood and iron, this horse was a downtown Colorado Springs fixture for years.

At the tour’s conclusion, Ann, Patrick and I walked back to the museum together. Inside the exhibit, he made sure I took in the enormous horse mannequin that used to be wheeled outside of Bingo’s D&S Saddle Shop, when the shop was located downtown. He still remembers being placed astride that horse by his father, who operated his own business nearby.

I felt very lucky to have talked history with Patrick, and hope I get to do it again. Still, even if you skip the tour, Art & Facts of Business in Colorado Springs is very much worth your time. There’s much to be said for an exhibit that puts Cotton Club relics and Borealis bikes within 30 feet of each other, and makes the pairing seem both natural and inspired.