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Secret Treasures 

The best local art, architecture and artifacts youve probably never seen

click to enlarge William Henry Harrisons Presidential carriage - NOEL BLACK
  • Noel Black
  • William Henry Harrisons Presidential carriage

Avast mateys. Aye, Colorado Springs may've been a treasure chest of ye olde West, but longtime lubbers and scallywags alike may be findin' themselves a bit nonplussed by the cultural scurvy that be scourgin' the poop deck o' this here Rocky Mountain Galleon, eh, ye swobs?

(Translation: Colorado Springs is not always what it appears. Below the surface are secret treasures, those charming out-of-the-way elements of our local culture that many, including longtime residents, might not know about. The following is a list of some of the most fascinating. And, for those who would like to speak pirate more fluently, we recommend renting Pirates of the Caribbean or going to www.talklikeapirate.com.)

Presidential coaches at the El Pomar Carriage Museum

A couple of secret treasures featured here are housed in another treasure that's about to be torn down, and so you won't be able to see the former for a couple of years until the new museum is built, nor the latter, ever.

The Carriage Museum -- housed in a little jewel of minimalist architecture designed by the nearly forgotten local architect Jahnn Ruttenberg -- used to sit right across the street from The Broadmoor hotel. Now being relocated, the collection includes dozens of old carriages, rickshaws, native clothing collections, gun collections and our secret treasures: the presidential carriages of William Henry Harrison and Chester A. Arthur.

click to enlarge Burns Building Demolition, a 1973 photograph by - Myron Wood - PIKES PEAK LIBRARY DISTRICT

What makes these carriages interesting morsels of history, said Carriage Museum curator Francis Pittz, is the strange fates of their former passengers.

Harrison, our ninth president, still holds the dubious honor of being commanderin chief for the shortest period in the history of the presidency. After 30 days in office, he succumbed to pneumonia. While his 1841 Williamsburg Brougham definitely has something of The Reaper about it, it's still quite handsomely black.

Chester A. Arthur, our 21st president, has the distinction of becoming the first of two presidents (Gerald Ford was the second) in American history to hold the office without ever being elected. Vice president to James Garfield, Arthur was installed as president when Garfield was assassinated in July of 1881 (after only four months in office) and was not subsequently re-elected. Arthur's 1862 C. Spring Victoria is also a very stylish mode of anachronistic transportation.

According to Pitzz, the museum -- with all its carriages, stagecoaches, wagons, cars, American Indian paraphernalia and gun collection -- is scheduled to reopen sometime in 2005 when it moves into its home in the soon-to-be-built Broadmoor Expo Center.

As for the Ruttenberg building, it will be demolished and the lot it's sitting on will be developed into brownstones.

Myron Wood's photography archive in the Pikes Peak Library District's Special Collections

click to enlarge A 550-year-old leaf from the Gutenberg Bible. - BRUCE ELLIOTT

Like so many other local artists who have slipped into the amnesia of Colorado Springs history, Myron Wood would be all but forgotten if not for his early-1980s photographs of the wizened Georgia O'Keeffe at her home in Abiquiu, N.M.

No doubt these photographs of the artist as an old woman are masterworks, but Wood, who died in 1999, also deserves to be remembered as the great visual poet of mid-20th-century Colorado Springs and the desert Southwest.

For evidence of Wood's overlooked place as a photo-documentarian of local history and his greater importance as an American photographer, one needn't look farther than the special collection of our own Penrose Public Library. The Pikes Peak Public Library District bought Wood's archive in 1992 and the archivists there have painstakingly conserved nearly 1,500 photographs of everything from straightforward pictures of local homes to the demolition of the Burns Theater. All of his prints are kept in special plastic sheaths that encourage researchers and amateur enthusiasts alike to enjoy them.

To make an appointment to view Wood's photography archives, call PPLD special collections librarian Tim Blevins at 531-6333. You can also view the entire archive online at www.ppld.org.

Leaf from the Gutenberg Bible in the Pikes Peak Library District's Special Collections

The Pikes Peak Public Library District's one-millionth acquisition is a treasure for any collection that values the history of books: a leaf from one of the original Gutenberg Bibles printed circa 1455.

click to enlarge The renovated Carnegie Library building, at the corner of - Kiowa and Cascade. - BRUCE ELLIOTT
  • Bruce Elliott
  • The renovated Carnegie Library building, at the corner of Kiowa and Cascade.

Johannes Gutenberg, in case you've forgotten your publishing history, was the inventor of moveable metal type -- the now-ubiquitous mechanized system of moving letters around on a printing press to make multiple copies of books without all the tedious hand-lettering. Scholars believe that Gutenberg printed between 180 and 200 Bibles, with only 48 thought to survive whole or even partially intact. Individual leafs, or folios, from the originals are somewhat more common but are still treats to see nonetheless.

For a peek at this remarkable artifact, contact PPLD special collections librarian Tim Blevins at 531-6333.

1905 Carnegie Library Building

If you haven't stopped in to have a look at the newly renovated 1906 Carnegie Library Building (adjacent to the Penrose Public Library), do. A secret treasure up until last year when the newly restored building was unveiled in its near-original state, this lovely example of Italianate architecture had been almost entirely encased in carpet and ceiling tiles since 1969.

"My attitude was that they preserved the building," said special collections librarian Tim Blevins. Though some original architectural elements like the front doors and the white marble drinking fountain were thrown out or destroyed, the overall integrity of the building has been restored or re-created from historical photos.

Come in and see the original terrazzo, the gorgeous cornice work and the cleverly restored ceiling in the reading room (not to mention the spectacular view!).

click to enlarge John Gaw Meems Fine Arts Center building at 30 W. Dale - St. - BRUCE ELLIOTT
  • Bruce Elliott
  • John Gaw Meems Fine Arts Center building at 30 W. Dale St.

It's at 20 N. Cascade Ave. There's also a virtual tour online at www.ppld.org or you can call 531-6333 for more information.

John Gaw Meem's newly restored Fine Arts Center building

At the time the Fine Arts Center was built in 1936, it was considered one of the most important pieces of modern architecture west of the Mississippi. Architect John Gaw Meem combined elements of Southwestern pueblo design with a crisp, utilitarian, poured concrete facade to create an architectural fusion of Native and Anglo cultures never before seen.

Inside, Meem trimmed the galleries with an art deco take on Southwestern themes. Sleek, stainless steel floor lamps were crowned with rawhide shades. While the sheer weight of the concrete building may have seemed forbidding, skylights and large windows brought levity to its interior spaces.

As often happens with many older buildings, the architect's original intent for the space was partially lost over the years. Windows were boarded up to create more gallery space, walls were covered with strange fabrics, chandeliers and other accent pieces disappeared or got lost in dust and paint and collections languished.

Under the leadership of the Fine Arts Center's new president, Michael DeMarsche, the interior of John Gaw Meem's museum is being faithfully restored to the way it was originally intended to be seen.

click to enlarge The Pioneers Museum clock tower by A.J. Smith. - BRUCE ELLIOTT

Since taking over last year, DeMarsche has taken down the wall blocking a large wall of windows in the Garden Gallery, stripped the main gallery walls of its dated fabric, polished up its original fixtures and deco trim pieces, given the whole place a new coat of paint, and created a new caf and bistro in the old theater lounge. He says he's just beginning.

By June 11, DeMarsche said he will have the skylights in the El Pomar hallway (west of the main lobby) reopened and the center will celebrate the unveiling of a new painting by Paul Cadmus and a Dale Chihuly chandelier designed specifically for the main foyer.

These are just a few of the many changes you can check out at the Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St., 634-5583, www.csfineartscenter.org.

The clock tower at the Pioneers Museum

There was a time when the Pioneers Museum, which used to be the El Paso County Courthouse, was the tallest building in Colorado Springs. As such, its four-sided clock tower served as the town timekeeper.

click to enlarge Tabor Utleys The Arts in the City Auditorium, - downtown. - BRUCE ELLIOTT
  • Bruce Elliott
  • Tabor Utleys The Arts in the City Auditorium, downtown.

Designed by architect A. J. Smith, the courthouse, completed in 1903, "was incredibly controversial -- as controversial as the [planned] new courthouse is now," said Pioneers Museum director Matt Mayberry. The building was the only one Smith ever designed, and after the building was finished, he "went off to manufacture bathroom fixtures."

The beautiful four-faced clock in the tower has been operational since the building's completion (a second clock mechanism was installed in 1913), and its bell was first chimed upon the death of local mining millionaire and philanthropist, Winfield Scott Stratton.

The inside of the tower isn't open to the public, but Mayberry said that plans are underway for renovations that will include returning the clock to its original pendulum system.

You can always admire the clock tower from Pioneers Park at 217 S. Tejon St., or call 385-5990

Tabor Utley and Archie Musick murals at the City Auditorium

Colorado Springs was a hotbed for Works Progress Administration public art during FDR's "New Deal" in the mid-1930s. Artists studying at the famed Broadmoor Academy (which later became the Fine Arts Center) under teachers like Boardman Robinson and Randall Davey painted murals in public buildings throughout the city. Sadly, many of the artworks from this era have been destroyed or painted over.

click to enlarge Jacob and the Angel by Shlomo Katz at the Air Force - Academy Chapel synagogue. - BRUCE ELLIOTT
  • Bruce Elliott
  • Jacob and the Angel by Shlomo Katz at the Air Force Academy Chapel synagogue.

Thanks in large part to a new local nonprofit, New Deal for the New Deal, founded by City Auditorium manager Bob Wade, artist Pat Musick and artist and Colorado College professor Barbara Diamond, some of those public works are now being restored and conserved. The group's first project is the restoration of two murals by Broadmoor Academy artists Archie Musick (Pat Musick's father) and Tabor Utley in the "lunettes" -- the arched walls above the ticket booths -- in the City Auditorium lobby.

Musick's mural is titled "Hardrock Miners" and depicts the gritty mining industry that created much of the wealth in Colorado Springs. Utley's "The Arts" stands in contrast to Musick's scene as a portrayal of the arts as the foundation of Colorado Springs' "civilized community."

With funding from the city, the El Pomar Foundation and the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado, the murals now enjoy proper lighting and are scheduled to be fully restored by the end of April.

You can see these wonderful murals Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the City Auditorium 221 E. Kiowa, or call 385-6581. And stay tuned for an unveiling party sponsored by New Deal for the New Deal sometime in May.

Shlomo Katz paintings and WW II Torah

click to enlarge First United Methodist Churchs Tiffany window - BRUCE ELLIOTT

While everyone and their estranged uncles know about, and/or have taken a tour of architect Walter A. Netsch Jr.'s spectacular ecumenical modern chapel at the Air Force Academy, it's oft forgotten that that two equally beautiful spaces of worship -- the Catholic chapel and the Jewish synagogue -- are also housed in the basement underneath the spires of steel and stained glass. In particular, the diminutive, circular synagogue can be easy to overlook. But don't be deceived by this understated gem that's home to two fine secret treasures.

First is a series of nine paintings done in 1985 and 1986 by Israeli painter Shlomo Katz. The series is organized into three grouping of three under the themes of "Brotherhood," "In Honor of the Air Force" and "Justice." Rendered in an exquisitely stylized manner close to the art nouveau stylings of Gustav Klimt and the gilded flatness of Byzantine iconographers, these paintings on gold leaf depict Old Testament vignettes such as "Jacob and the Angel," "The Vision of Ezekiel" and "Solomon's Judgment." Adding to their luminescence and ethereality, the series was painted on curved, cypress-framed boards to conform to the circular walls of the synagogue.

The second treasure is a 200-year-old Torah that was recovered from a warehouse in Czestochowa, Poland, where it was hidden from the Nazis during World War II. Though incomplete, the scroll, which was discovered in 1989 among 38 others, was donated to the Air Force Academy as a memorial to the Jews killed in Hitler's Holocaust.

To take a tour of the entire chapel, call 333-2025 for directions and to make sure the Academy is open. Rabbi Don Levy also said that the public is welcome to attend Sabbath services on Friday evenings at 7 p.m. if the Academy is open.

Tiffany stained-glass window at First United Methodist Church

A truly dazzling secret treasure, the Tiffany stained-glass window in the choir loft at the First United Methodist Church is a must-see for anyone who loves antiques, exquisite craftsmanship or the high art of Tiffany glass-making.

click to enlarge Reine de Joie poster by Toulouse-Lautrec - BRUCE ELLIOTT

Famous for the smoky, contemplative light that his stained-glass lamps and church windows created, Louis Comfort Tiffany defined the art form during his lifetime in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by doing away with painted glass and eventually mass producing some 5,000 different colored glasses, each designed to cast a particular color and tone of light.

With a huge staff of window makers, Tiffany was able to turn the market for ecclesiastical and memorial windows into a huge part of his business, and the window at First United Methodist is a fine example of a memorial window created late in the company's existence.

Commissioned by Sen. Nathan B. Scott and his wife as a memorial to their 8-year-old daughter, the large round window depicts the young Daisy Scott offering flowers to Jesus while her sister and another unidentified child in Jesus' lap look on. It was given to the church in 1939.

The piece also has some excellent examples of Tiffany's "drapery glass," which has the three-dimensional contours of fabric.

According to First United Methodist lore, Mr. Tiffany offered to buy the piece back from the church "so that he could put it on display as one of his finest works."

If you'd like to see the window, you can attend First United Methodist's Sunday services at 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m., or 11 a.m., at 420 N. Nevada, or call 471-8522 for an appointment.

click to enlarge The Broadmoor hotel, with lake in front, by Maxfield - Parrish. - BRUCE ELLIOTT
  • Bruce Elliott
  • The Broadmoor hotel, with lake in front, by Maxfield Parrish.

Original Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec prints at the Penrose House

Some of the most precious secret treasures in the Pikes Peak region once hung unguarded and frequently unnoticed in a bar. Thayer Tutt, director of the El Pomar Foundation, says his grandfather, Charles L. Tutt, acquired seven original Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec prints from a small gallery in New York City in the mid-1950s for several hundred dollars each. He then proceeded to hang all of them in the Broadmoor Tavern, where they remained until 2000 when Thayer Tutt decided to have the posters restored and moved to a more secure location in the Penrose House.

"Some were unceremoniously glued to cardboard," said Tutt of the prints by the late 19th-century French artist known best for his Japanese-influenced graphic depictions of Montmartre nightlife and for his carousing in bars and brothels.

Though the prints in the Penrose House are unsigned, Tutt says that Toulouse-Lautrec personally oversaw all of his original printings, including the 1899 "Jane Avril" zincograph that depicts the delicate dance legend of the Moulin Rouge in a serpentine art nouveau dress.

Also in the collection are two promotional posters commissioned by Polish writer Victor Joze for the release of his novels Reine de Joie and Babylone d'Allemagne, another of the famous Jane Avril posters (the 1893 lithograph from her debut at the Jardin de Paris) and a portrait of Misia Natanson -- a famous socialite among the avant-garde artists and writers of the time -- ice-skating in her finery.

The El Pomar Foundation offers free tours of the entire Penrose House at 1661 Mesa Ave. by appointment only on the first Monday of every month. Call 577-7000.

click to enlarge The Maytag building, 701 S. Cascade Ave. - BRUCE ELLIOTT

Maxfield Parrish painting of The Broadmoor hotel

Another of the seldom seen crown jewels in the philanthropic El Pomar Foundation's extensive art collection is a painting of The Broadmoor hotel by Maxfield Parrish, one the early 20th century's most beloved painters and illustrators. Best known for his "Parrish blue" skies with improbably mythical-looking clouds and the cherubic young androgynes that inhabited his neo-classical settings, Parrish achieved the otherworldly quality of his paintings with a painstakingly slow technique that involved the application of many ultra-thin layers of oil paints.

Parrish's painting of The Broadmoor was commissioned by Spencer Penrose in 1919, soon after the hotel's completion, and legend has it that Penrose was furious when he saw that Parrish had used his creative license to move the hotel's lake.

"Penrose hated that Parrish had put the lake in front of the hotel," said Thayer Tutt, "but he loved the painting. Penrose wanted everyone he could get to promote the hotel."

Like the Toulouse-Lautrec prints, the Parrish painting also sat in painfully unprotected view, right behind the front desk of the hotel until 2000, when Tutt had it removed for conservation and replaced it with a facsimile.

Though the original is now in a private office out of public view, the reproduction is still nice and it's still parked right behind the desk on the main floor where anyone can pretend it's real.

The Maytag Aircraft Company building designed by Jim Wallace

Usually in the spirit of "urban renewal," Colorado Springs has allowed dozens of historical buildings to be destroyed over the past 50 years. However, a few inconspicuous treasures have escaped the wrecking ball. One of those is Jim Wallace's Maytag building south of downtown at the corner of Rio Grande and Cascade Avenue.

Wallace is probably best known as the architect who designed the elegant and understated Broadmoor Community Church (for which he won a national American Institute of Architects design award in the late 1960s) and the equally understated Pikes Peak Center and Centennial Hall on Cascade Avenue. But local architects all have a special place in their hearts for the quiet mastery of the little green building Wallace designed for the Maytag Aircraft Company in the mid-1950s.

"It's a beautifully proportioned building like an aircraft has to be beautifully proportioned to fly," said architect Michael Collins who considers Wallace one of his primary mentors.

Wallace, now in his 80s, said that building was done to "provide lots of inside space without columns and to be sort of reflective of wings."

Constructed with aluminum, glass and blue-glazed brick, the tidy form-meets-function design of this little masterpiece of local modernity is worth a good long look.

Located at 701 S. Cascade Ave., the Maytag building is now home to CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). Please don't disturb its present occupants without an appointment.

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