After we quoted longtime El Paso County administrator Terry Harris as saying that the county commission would never have voted to raze the old courthouse, we got a number of e-mails and clippings from readers that proved unequivocably that the commission did just that.
A copy of the front page of the Nov. 16, 1966 edition of the Gazette-Telegraph sent to us by a reference librarian at the Pikes Peak Public Library shows that the El Paso County Board of Commissioners did indeed vote to raze the elegant old courthouse at the corner of Tejon and Vermijo.
”The present courthouse will be torn down, the commissioners left no doubt about that,” the Gazette reported.
The announcement caught Colorado Springs residents by surprise. A group called “Save the Court House Committee” sprang up to fight the plan.
The courthouse was structurally sound and adaptable for many uses, the committee argued. ”To destroy a building of such significance and potential usefulness,” the group wrote, “is a flagrant waste of taxpayers’ money.”
A reader who goes by the name “Geester1″ wrote in to say that people in sandwich boards walked the streets demanding to “save the courthouse” and “move the museum!”
Eventually the judicial complex and jail were built several blocks to the east of the courthouse. The county sold the courthouse to the city in 1973 for a dollar and it re-opened in 1979 as the Pioneers Museum.
Plans to build a court house began in 1872, four years before Colorado became a state. The commissioners voted to pay Anthony Bott $2,500 for “enlarging and making a satisfactory completion of a fair and ample courthouse.”
In 1899, the town’s founders decided it was time to build a new courthouse. The granite blocks were hauled in by donkey engines and horses. Stone cutters and stone masons, considered the elite craftsmen at the time, were brought in to build the exterior.
The courthouse was presented to taxpayers on May 16, 1903. There were so many speeches that later orators “didn’t bother to say anything because of the lateness of the hour,” one journalist wrote.