Cutler Hall

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The Building of Colorado College

During its early years, the college struggled for financial viability and survived through the generosity of local residents and wealthy Eastern friends. Under the leadership of President Edward P. Tenney (1876-1884), the college erected its first permanent building, Cutler Hall, an 1880 stone structure designed by the nationally prominent architecture firm of Peabody and Stearns. All of the college functions took place in its classrooms, laboratories, offices, and small auditorium. In 1888, the arrival of President William F. Slocum ushered in an era of physical expansion, increased student population, and faculty development. A tireless fundraiser, Slocum successfully tapped into a network of Eastern benefactors and local millionaires to support campus improvements. To attract enrollment from beyond the city boundaries, the college focused on erecting student dormitories. The first men's residence was Hagerman Hall (built in 1889 and razed in 1956). For its women's housing, the college adopted the cottage system, creating dormitories that resembled large single-family homes, including Montgomery Hall (1891), Ticknor Hall (1898), McGregor Hall (1903), and Bemis Hall (1908). The Woman's Educational Society played a major role in planning and raising the funds for the four halls, which were designed by Colorado architects using native stone.

The college directly benefited from the tremendous wealth generated by gold-producing Cripple Creek in the 1890s and early 20th century. Academic buildings rose around campus in rapid succession, including Coburn Library and Wolcott Observatory in 1894, Perkins Hall for art and music in 1899, and Palmer Hall in 1904. (Of these, only Palmer Hall still stands.) Frederick H. Cossitt Memorial Hall (1914) addressed the overwhelming demand for men's athletic facilities and the popularity of physical culture in education. President Slocum, hailed as "the college builder," departed in 1917 with 14 permanent buildings and an enrollment of roughly 700 students to his credit.

While no new facilities were built for several years, the college acquired additional buildings through the gift or purchase of some of the large residences adjacent to the campus, a process later described as "The Growth That Nobody Saw." Jackson House (1900) was given to the college by longtime trustee Judson Bemis in 1917. Lennox House (1900), now also called the Glass House, was gifted to the college by longtime trustee William Lennox in 1936. The college purchased Haskell House (1927) and Arthur House (1881) in 1961 and 1962, respectively, and acquired the Plaza Hotel (1900), now called Spencer Center, in 1991.

The last freestanding building erected of stone on the Colorado College campus was Shove Memorial Chapel. A non-denominational place of worship, this magnificent stone chapel was financed entirely by Colorado Springs businessman and Colorado College trustee Eugene P. Shove in honor of his English clergymen ancestors. Scottish-born architect John Gray of Pueblo, inspired by the architecture of Winchester Cathedral, won a national architectural competition to secure the commission for the building's design, and it is considered his finest work. The chapel was completed in 1931 and its construction provided an important source of income for its Colorado Springs builders during the Great Depression. Shove houses a 40,000-pound Welte-Tripp concert pipe organ. A representative of the Welte-Tripp Organ Company stated that the instrument was the "finest organ ever built by our organization."

A Lasting Legacy

Colorado College now possesses one of the largest collections of historic buildings in Colorado. To develop a plan for carefully stewarding these properties, in 1993 the college commissioned Manning Architects to conduct a survey of 97 of its buildings. Of those surveyed, 69 (or 76%) were found to be historically significant.

Over the last decade, Colorado College has worked to add some of its most significant buildings to the National Register of Historic Places and the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties. Currently, 12 of the buildings (italicized above) are on the National Register and Jackson House is on the State Register. The college is eligible to apply to the Colorado Historical Society's State Historical Fund for grants to support historic preservation work on buildings with these historic designations. Since 1997, the college has been awarded more than $1.5 million from the State Historical Fund to address restoration work on several buildings, including Bemis Hall, Cutler Hall, Palmer Hall, Jackson House, Lennox House, and the Plaza Hotel (Spencer Center). These grants, combined with more than $1.5 million in matching funds from the college's own coffers, have allowed the college to address pressing exterior preservation work in a more comprehensive and historically sensitive manner than otherwise would have been possible. A grant from the State Historical Fund also supported the creation of this walking tour.