Above: Two of Rock Ledge Ranch's draft horses hard at work.
Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site was an accident. The over 200 acre living history village on the southeastern edge of Garden of the Gods was bought by the City of Colorado Springs in 1968 as a buffer zone. They wanted to prevent development in the growing city from encroaching on the natural treasure. After it was purchased, the land’s rich history was revealed and the city restored and developed it. The ranch, run by the City, opened to the public in 1978 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places the following year.
In summers, crops are planted and tended as they were in the 19th century.
Four distinct areas of Pike’s Peak Region history are represented here: Indian life circa 1775; the 1860s Galloway Homestead, the 1880s Chambers Home and Ranch which once was a thriving orchard and farm and the 1907 Orchard House.
Native Americans, most recently Ute and Cheyenne, roamed this area for thousands of years. It was a fertile hunting ground in winter. The Native American area of the ranch depicts life at the foot of the Rocky Mountains circa 1775. There is always a Native American staff member and Native volunteers on hand to relate the history and demonstrate some of the life skills used. There is also a reproduced wiki-up, the type of structure that they lived in prior to the arrival of horses with the Spanish. Visitors will find a formerly wild Mustang horse, similar to what the Native Americans would have had.
Visitors will find this teepee in the Native American area.
In the late 1860s, Scotsman Walter Galloway filed for the land under the Homestead Act. He had arrived at Ellis Island during the Civil War. The new arrival was offered a deal he couldn’t refuse from the US Government. Fight for the Union and you’ll get instant citizenship he was told. As a citizen, he was entitled to lay claim to the land. He built a log cabin and began farming the land. The original cabin is long gone, but due to very detailed plans required by the US Government from those filing for homestead land and knowledge of the building style of the time, the cabin, built with tools used in the old west is very authentic.
Rock Ledge House was built from local stone in 1875.
In 1875, Galloway sold the property to the Chambers family. The farm included an orchard and a dairy. In the 1880s, they build the imposing stone Victorian home, known Rock Ledge House. Visitors will see the restored home and apple orchard as well as a smokehouse and root cellar. It is also a working farm. The family lived here until 1900. At this site you’ll find a working farm. Produce from the farm is available for sale in season. There is also a menagerie of farm animals that would have lived here at the time including: chickens, sheep, four draft horses, a pig, a peacock and peahen and what resident farmer, Christine Nekl, calls, “one excessively spoiled cow.”
In 1907, William Jackson Palmer, founder of Colorado Springs, acquired the property and built Orchard House, an Edwardian era Dutch Colonial, for his wife’s half sister Charlotte Sclater and her husband. When Palmer passed away two years later, the Sclaters left the area.
The Orchard House, designed by Scottish architect Thomas MacLaren, was built in 1907.
While all the homes are furnished with period pieces, they are not the pieces that were original to the homes.
Besides these four areas, visitors can view demonstrations of period chores and crafts throughout the Ranch. You’ll see people in period dress baking bread, churning butter, weaving and more. There is a working blacksmith shop on-site and a general store where they sell some of the crafts created on site as well as other items.
Men hard at work in the blacksmith shop use tools from the 19th century.
The site is open seasonally from the second Saturday in June through the second Saturday in August. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm; there is an admission charge. They also host special events throughout the year and it’s available for rent for private functions.
If you want to see what the west was like in the wilder days, put Rock Ledge Ranch on your Colorado Springs Itinerary.
All photos photo courtesy of Rock Ledge Ranch.
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