Where to begin ? The Ute and Plains Indians ? Zebulon Montgomery Pike ? The US Army ? It’s complicated, but let’s start in the late 1800’s .
The US Army Signal Corps built a Signal Service slash Weather Station at the Summit in 1873 A rough road was needed to get the supplies to the top. Not much more then a burro trail snaking its way up the 14,110 feet of altitude . Over the years it was upgraded to a rough horse carriage road. By 1899 the road was improved enough and was then privately owned and turned into a Toll Road for the tourist. The route itself started outside the town of Cascade Colorado and from the city limit to the top is about 20 miles.
Below is the early Signal and Weather Station.
The Summit was becoming a huge tourist destination and was known world wide . The amount of time needed to make the ascent by horse -drawn carriage and the trip back down was one of the limiting factors allowing many folks from seeing the glorious views from Pikes Peak The first big change at Pikes Peak was just around the corner.
Pikes Peak Cog Railway built up the side of the mountain began taking its first passengers to the Summit in 1891. Great news for people wanting to see the view faster, all the while staying out of the mountain’s inclement weather. The new steam powered Swedish built Locomotive engines, pulled some nice and comfortable passenger cars. The bad news was the carriage road to the top was left to deteriorate as paying customers on the old road diminished.
Below is the new Summit House in 1901
Many of the first automotive and motorcycle attempts followed along the old carriage road during it’s worst overall conditions. During the years from 1901-1914. Boulders, landslides, and washouts got more difficult and frequent as the altitude increased. The road became so difficult, that many early summit seekers would end up driving down the Cog Railroad line on the way back. Things had to change.
Eugene Sunderlin to the rescue, …….. (What ? You never heard of him?). That is a name you do not hear very often when it comes to the famous Pikes Peak Highway. Eugene was the dreamer who figured the old carriage road needed to be widened and improved for automobile traffic. He was the one who secured the estimates on the cost of construction and the 20 year permit from the government for the use of the Pike Peak National Forest reserve . Securing enough money was the problem . Now comes the part of the story that most people know of, about the Pikes Peak Highway. Spencer Penrose , the Cooper King along with several others came up with the financing for the construction company and the ultimate success of completing the road. The original estimate to widen and improve the carriage road into a automotive road to the top was $50,000. The actual cost were estimated at over $200,000 in the local newspaper The Gazette Telegraph in August of 1916.
Check back in later on this blog and we can get more into the actual making of the road. thanks for staying with me !