Its tree-lined walks. Its quiet demeanor. Its past a rather different beginning for a university campus.
The buildings comprising the older portion of the University of Colorado campus, here in Colorado Springs, were built with a different purpose in mind. Not for the purpose of education, but one for recovery from the terrible affliction of tuberculosis. The dry air and relatively mild climate of the region was considered the ideal location to recover one’s health from the illness. In the 1890s, several sanitoriums were built on the outskirts of Colorado Springs. In 1905, the Cragmor Sanitorium became another sanitorium to provide treatment.
With strong medical leadership and exclusive clientele, the Cragmor Sanitorium developed a reputation as a highly-regarded treatment facility. Its attractive Spanish Mission revival architecture was a definite draw for the arts and café society from the East Coast. However, the Great Depression of the 1930s required the sanitorium to adapt to the new reality. To survive economically, providing treatment to a rich clientele was no longer an option.
Though on a large parcel of land, the Cragmor Sanitorium did not develop into a large institution. Several cottages, homes, and out buildings were built behind the main sanitorium facility to provide follow-up and transitional care. The Cragmor facility remained dedicated to its core mission of strong medical leadership.
As the years passed and other treatments for tuberculosis were developed, the sanitorium had fewer and fewer patients. It had an elderly nursing care wing added to its main sanitorium building. Yet, the new services did not change the declining patient numbers. In the mid 1960s, the University of Colorado had developed an interest in the property. The university was seeking to expand its academic programs in support of the military and a developing engineering industry in Colorado Springs.
With three large buildings, the university began operating their extension center in full earnest. The class schedule, mostly Monday through Thursday, and mostly in the late afternoon and evening hours. While the average age of the student body was 28, the one thing every student agreed on was the creepiness of the former sanitorium facility. Most creepy was South Hall, just southeast of Main Hall. The hallways were long and poorly lit.
By the time my sister, Ginny, started in 1972, the campus was less creepy. At least, that’s what she said. But, she added Friday afternoons were very quiet. When I started in 1974, those creepy moments didn’t seem to exist, at least in my mind. Regarding late Friday afternoons, they were still deadly quiet.
Though the older part of the campus was renovated several years ago, it hasn’t changed all that much. It is still deadly quiet. Very few classes, if any, are held in this part of the campus. Many of the classes are now held in the new buildings. My daughters are glad their classes are in the new buildings. They say that older end of campus does have a creepy feel.
Come, let’s walk through the fall colors. What will we see? What will we hear?
About the photos –
The archival photos of the Cragmor Sanitorium are courtesy of the University of Colorado. The color photos are mine, pretty much classic shots that have been taken by many.