Colorado Springs Sesquicentennial: 150 years under America's Mountain

July 31, 2021 marks the 150-year anniversary of the founding of Colorado Springs by William Jackson Palmer. The city, founded at the base of Pikes Peak, experienced many changes over the last 150 years as it has grown to the 39th largest city in the United States.

Sesquicentennial - noun
ses·​qui·​cen·​ten·​ni·​al | \ ˌse-skwi-sen-ˈte-nē-əl \
A 150th anniversary or its celebration.

Pikes Peak Library District (PPLD) and other community organizations are planning an extensive series of programming and events throughout the year. Many programs focus on providing a historic background to better understand our city today, both for people new to the community and for folks just starting to learn about the region’s history. Other programs are designed to critically examine and appraise the complexities of Colorado Springs’ past. The history of our city is important to all of us; there is something for everyone.



Check back for more programs and events as they are added.


CoS History Book Club

The past is the window to the present. Using the published works of local historians as inspiration, this program will highlight specific themes of Colorado Springs and the region. It is offered in concert with the books referenced, which provide additional background. However, attendees should not feel obligated to read the books in advance of the discussion. The series will provide high-quality information about the community to a broad and diverse audience.

April Topic: Invisible People

Join editors Takiyah Jemison and Heather Jordan in a panel discussion of the newest release of the Pikes Peak Library District’s Regional History Series: an updated edition of The Invisible People of the Pikes Peak Region by John Stokes Holley. Originally published in 1990 by the Friends of the Pikes Peak Library District and the Friends of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, this book presents a comprehensive history dedicated to the local African American community. The reprint includes the original publication in its entirety, along with new chapters, an index, and additional images.

A copy of the book may be checked out from the Library (via our Catalog) or purchased from PPLD Special Collections (20 N. Cascade Avenue), the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum (215 S. Tejon St.), or clausenbooks.com. A recommended chapter will be emailed to all registrants.

Previous Topics

March Topic: Doctors, Disease & Dying

Join Katie Rudolph, Denver Public Library archivist, and Matt Mayberry, director of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, as they present on their chapters from our Regional History book series title, Doctors, Disease & Dying. Katie will outline the events leading up to and surrounding the 1918 influenza pandemic in Denver, mirroring her chapter, "The influenza pandemic of 1918 : a Colorado Springs timeline." Matt Mayberry will speak with us about the local tuberculosis industry in, "On a cough & a prayer : the Modern Woodmen Sanatorium & the tuberculosis industry in the Pikes Peak Region."

For more information about the pioneers, traders, and military personnel who were both the purveyors and the recipients of needed care in the Pikes Peak Region, Doctors, Disease & Dying can be checked out from library locations.


January Topic: Visible People

Downtown Colorado Springs contains visible monuments to multiple significant local historic figures. Regional History and Genealogy Director, Brett Lobello, will discuss how these monuments offer a window, not just into William Jackson Palmer, Winfield Scott Stratton, and Spencer Penrose, but also the people and community that chose to commemorate their life and actions.

150 years after the founding of Colorado Springs, historians are still learning from the words and deeds of General William Jackson Palmer. Leah Davis Witherow, Curator of History for the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museums will explore manuscripts, photographs, artifacts, and memories of those who knew him best – General Palmer is more valuable and relevant than ever.

For more information about the history of Colorado Springs, Newport in the Rockies can be found in the catalog and checked out from library locations.


November Topic: Extraordinary Women

Inspired by the Pikes Peak Library Districts’ Regional History Book Series book, Extraordinary Women of the Pikes Peak Region, the first program will introduce women important to Colorado Springs history.

Chris Nicholl, PPLD Regional History and Genealogy staff member, will share the story of three Colorado Springs women whose political demonstrations at the gates of the White House landed them in prison and helped win the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting American women the right to vote. Susan Fletcher, Glen Eyrie Navigators Historian and Archivist, will explore the lives of Queen Palmer, wife of General William Jackson Palmer, and their three daughters, Elsie, Dorothy, and Marjory.

For more information about women of the Pikes Peak Region, Extraordinary Women of the Pikes Peak Region highlights these stories as well as the stories of 18 other women. Susan Fletcher's chapter is published in Bigwigs & Benefactors of the Pikes Peak Region.


Coming Soon: Pikes Peak Regional History Symposium

Nice, Naughty, & Notable: Colorado Springs at 150
In a year marking the 150-year anniversary of the founding of Colorado Springs by William Jackson Palmer, Pikes Peak Library District is pleased to offer our 2021 Pikes Peak Regional History Symposium virtually! This year's program has been divided into four separate virtual events. We are excited to celebrate our city's sesquicentennial with you!

  • Sat., May 22
    • Kathy Sturdevant: “Instant Civilization”: The Engineer of “Progress” and the Magic Early Years of Colorado Springs
    • Steve Plutt: The Lake George Ice & Power Company
    • Doreen E. Martinez: Historicizing Indigenous Presence: Footprints, Artifacts, Ways of Being and Knowing
  • Sat., June 26
    • Susan Fletcher: Glen Eyrie at 150 (Give or Take Several Millennia)
    • Tom Noel: The Broadmoor Hotel’s Beginnings: From Count James Pourtales to Spencer Penrose
    • Eric Swab: Three Trails That Ring Cheyenne Mountain, Three Tales of Infidelity, Bribery, and Provocation
  • Sat., July 24
    • Leah Davis Witherow: CC Professor Edith Bramhall, teacher, mentor, city council member, & activist
    • Eric Metzger: The McAllister House and its Place in 150 years of Colorado Springs History
    • Greg Atkins: City Business: Colorado Springs and the Libertarian Party
  • Sat., Aug. 28
    • Rick Sturdevant: Air and Space Forces in Colorado Springs: Their Bases and Memorable Characters
    • Mark James: Dr. James, Moral Reformer, Scientist, Pikes Peak
    • Kathy Sturdevant: The Quaker Trail: Moral Infiltration, Disintegration, and Revival in the Pikes Peak Region

Previous Events

Streaming History: Fannie Mae Duncan

To celebrate Black History Month, PPLD Special Collections will host a live chat while streaming the Rocky Mountain PBS documentary, Fannie Mae Duncan. While watching the documentary, you can chat with PPLD staff and the documentary's producer, Kate Perdoni.

Meet the inspiring Fannie Mae Duncan, an African American nightclub owner who brought the motto “Everybody Welcome” to true meaning at her Colorado Springs Cotton Club despite the volatile Civil Rights Movement of her day. The granddaughter of slaves and the daughter of tenant farmers, Fannie Mae stood up against disharmony and heartbreak to maintain the first racially integrated club in the city. Premiered on Rocky Mountain PBS November 8, 2018.


Invisible People Book Release

Join the Pikes Peak Library District and the Special Collections team for a virtual book release of The Invisible People of the Pikes Peak Region by John Stokes Holley. To help celebrate the book’s release, we will hear presentations from two Colorado Springs natives. PPLD Senior Adult Services Librarian Melissa Mitchell will present “Growing up with Greatness” and Colorado Springs native Sharon Tunson will present “Unsettled Settler.” Also speaking at the event will be PPLD Chief Librarian John Spears and the book’s editors, Takiyah Jemison and Heather Jordan of the Pikes Peak Library District. Registration is required for this zoom event.