Institutional Background and History
Colorado College’s history is one full of proud tradition and progressive culture. The conventions upon which the school was based continue to live through the current students, faculty, and staff. Established in 1874, two years before Colorado became a state, Colorado College’s history is a long and proud one as a coeducational institution. In the early years, before there existed so much as a permanent building, Colorado College gathered a small faculty whose roots ran to New England scholarship. Today’s faculty, although more diverse philosophically, still balances teaching and scholarship as the college’s traditional strength.
In 1871, General William Jackson Palmer, founder of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, laid out the city of Colorado Springs along his new line from Denver. Envisioning a model city, he reserved land and contributed funds for a college, which was to open on May 6, 1874.
The college’s first building, Cutler Hall, opened in 1880; the first bachelor’s degrees were conferred in 1882. Under President William F. Slocum, who served from 1888 to 1917, the campus took the shape it held until the 1950s. During this time, the college significantly expanded, improved the library’s holdings, and attracted leading scholars in a number of fields. Phi Beta Kappa was chartered in 1904.
Since the mid-1950s, the campus has been almost entirely rebuilt. New facilities include three large residence halls, Worner Campus Center, Tutt Library, Olin Hall of Science and the Barnes Science Center, Honnen Ice Rink, Boettcher Health Center, Schlessman Pool, Armstrong Hall of Humanities, Palmer Hall, El Pomar Sports Center, and Packard Hall of Music and Art. The Gaslight Plaza Building, previously known as the Plaza Hotel and the Plaza Building, was purchased by the college in March 1991 and was renamed the William I. Spencer Center in public ceremonies on October 5, 1991 to honor Bill Spencer, who served on the board from 1967 until 1991 and was chair from 1984 to 1991. The building houses development, communications, and human resources. Turn-of-the-century Bemis, Cossitt, Cutler, Montgomery, and Palmer Halls and the William I. Spencer Center are on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Colorado College campus has undergone significant changes over recent years, with the construction of the Western Ridge Housing Complex, the completion of the Russell T. Tutt Science Center, and the revitalization of the east campus, now home to several “theme” houses.
In 2008, the campus welcomed the opening of the Edith Kinney Gaylord Cornerstone Arts Center, an interdisciplinary arts building allowing for innovative, experimental, and collaborative projects in a unique space with state-of-the-art technology.
In the spring of 2013, Colorado College completed the addition of the Adam F. Press Fitness Center, a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to the health of the college community. The renovations to El Pomar Sports Center and the addition of the Adam F. Press Fitness Center have reinvigorated and energized the college’s access to health and wellness and continue to be a huge asset for students, faculty, and staff.
Perhaps more significant than the physical development of the campus is its academic vigor. The college’s curriculum includes a number of interdisciplinary programs: Southwest studies, feminist and gender studies, Asian studies, biochemistry, environmental sciences, neuroscience, Latin American studies, Russian and Eurasian studies, and race and ethnic studies, as well as a strong across-the-curriculum writing program and a thriving Summer Session.
The citizens of Colorado Springs over a century ago were so proud of their young town’s progress and prosperity that they filled a Century Chest full of descriptive memorabilia. A splendid ceremony in 1901 at Colorado College marked the sealing of the large steel-riveted box, which stands today in the college’s Tutt Library. It was opened on January 1, 2001, and contains more than 100 essays and photographs depicting community life a century ago.