CC History - Colorado College

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Colorado College was established as a coeducational institution in 1874, two years before Colorado became a state. 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 May 6, 1874.

HISTORY OF COLORADO COLLEGE


In the early years, even before there was a permanent building, the college gathered a small faculty whose roots ran to traditional New England scholarship. Today’s faculty, although more diverse philosophically, still balances teaching and scholarship as the college’s traditional strength.

The college’s first building, Cutler Hall, was occupied 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 reached scholarly maturity, especially by significantly expanding and improving the library’s holdings and by attracting leading scholars in a number of fields. Phi Beta Kappa was chartered in 1904.

Since the mid-1950s, the campus has been virtually 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 the retiring charter trustee and board chairman. Bill Spencer served on the board from 1967 until 1991 and was chair from 1984 to 1991. The building houses development, college relations, 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 face of campus changed again at the beginning of the 21st century with construction of the Western Ridge Housing Complex, which offers apartment-style living for upper-division students and completion of the Russell T. Tutt Science Center; as well as the revitalization of the east campus, now home to the Greek Quad and several “theme” houses.

Perhaps more significant than the physical development of the campus is its academic vigor. The college’s curriculum includes a number of special programs: Southwest studies, feminist and gender studies, Asian studies, biochemistry, environmental sciences, neuroscience, Latin American studies, Russian and Eurasian studies, and American cultural studies, as well as a strong across-the-curriculum writing program, and a thriving Summer Session.

Visually, Cutler Hall and the mountain view are about all that remain of the college’s physical beginnings, but the changes cannot obscure real continuities. Colorado College remains dedicated to the traditional principles of a liberal arts and sciences education as envisioned by its founders more than 125 years ago.

Information of historical interest on the CC web site includes an historic campus tour created by Tutt Library Special Collections and Archives. Many historical links are also collected on the Colorado College 125th Anniversary page as well. Go on a virtual tour of the Colorado Springs Century Chest, which is full of descriptive memorabilia opened on January 1, 2001. Click here to see a complete history of commencement speakers.