Sunday, January 31, 2016

Years of friendly, local service in one spot

Business spans the decades, takes on town's character

By Rob Carrigan,

Monument pioneer William "Penny" Lierd earned his nickname as payback for a coffin purchase.
"Mr. Lierd, a very honest man, always paid his debts and he expected everyone to do the same. He sold a coffin to a party and they would not pay so started to sue. They finally came and paid for the coffin, $50; they brought the money all in penneys and made him count it out.  From then on, he was known as "Penny Lierd," according to an account by Monument historian Lucille Lavelett from 1970s,
That could have been just about any time after 1882. The store Lierd built at 243 Washington, started construction sometime in 1881, and carried a sign for a long time saying "established 1882.".
He first set foot in Monument in 1870, coming to Colorado to heal his lungs from tuberculosis, buying a 280-acre ranch, north and east of town on the Douglas County line.
But William "Penny" Laird was just one in a long line, of civic-minded shopkeepers in what is now Catriona Cellars.
"This is really a great community, " says "Woody" Woodworth, who conducted business there for for about 20 years and still manages winery operations. "We bought the Feed Store business in January of 1996."
Woodworth and his wife Catherine later expanded the feed business to "High Country Feed and Garden," a top Garden Center and later added other elements. A few years ago, they undertook a major renovation as Winery, restaurant, and wine-making and home-brewing supply store, but have since consolidated the winery operation.
He was still dabbling in landscape, planting and other elements then, but, as he says, "That is a younger man's game. It's a lot of work, very physical. "
The wine business has taken off, he said. "Wine Sales are huge," he says and the downtown is poised to really take off. "It's historic, well-maintained, family-friendly, quaint, and unique, with a bunch of personable people operating businesses. It is the strength of the individuals."
Over time, the buildings of the Winery have housed various businesses and endeavors.
Early on, a cellar there served as jail for wide-open Monument. "We found the bars," says Woodworth, about their restoration work on a portion of the property. "It looked like there was possibly three partitions to divide cells."
Lierd, the first proprietor, sold dry goods, shoes, groceries, caskets and coffins.
Records show that men socks brought 25 cents for three pairs. Shoes priced at $2.50 a pair and hard candy were popular items, as was plug tobacco, with a special plug cutter right there on the counter.
"On each pound strip of tobacco were five tin horse shoes or stars which were good for premiums.  If a customer didn't want the horseshoes Mr. Lierd would ask for them," Lavelett related in histories. "Will Lierd's son, Clifton, told me the Lierd's had a dining set acquired by sending in 70,000 horseshoes."
In fact the Lavelett Truck line was located there at one time in the 1940s, notes Woodworth, as well as Engel Feed and Fuel in 1950s, the Fire Department in the 1960s, and the Equity Produce and Mercantile, which was a farmer's Co-op operating in 1922, by J.R. Close and C.C. Garrett. Elsi Romack Newbrough was clerk in 1918.
Woodworth said people of a certain age, would come into the business and recall playing bingo as children in the fire hall, and Engel descendants still live in the Tri-Lakes area.
He and his wife Catherine purchased the feed business from Judy Bliss, who acquired it in 1980. Artist Jodie Bliss, daughter of Bill and Judy Bliss, now has her studio there, and the Bliss family still maintain ownership of the historic location.

Photo1: Interior of Will "Penny" Lierd's store on Washington Street in Monument in the 1880s, and left to right: Will Lierd, Fred Sailor, the man with the derby hat and whiskers, Andrew Curry.

Photo 2: Built in 1881 by William Leird, better known as Penny Leird, General Mercantile store, and stocked with groceries, meats, farming equipment, — anything the town's people of Monument would need, they carried. Also they had a full line of coffins and caskets. At this time in history funeral parlors were unheard of. Standing in front of the store is Nellie McShane, owner at this time J.M. Brown, and Jessie McShane. The McShane girls were daughters of Monument pioneer David McShane. McShane was the builder of McShane Fort on the edge of Monument and Palmer Lake., and the girls were employed by owner Brown. Monument Fire Department bought the building in 1966, and renovated it. Carl Campbell was the Engineer of Renovation, and Bill Simpson helped by grading and moving heavy timbers.

Photo 3: The building for a time served as Catriona Cellars, owned by Woody and Catherine Woodworth. Today, it is the Bliss Studio and Gallery: Custom Metal Work.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Spirits of Higby and Moore haunt downtown Monument

Local politics and history rolled up and placed on the corner

By Rob Carrigan,

All politics is local. Former Speaker of the U.S. House, Tip O'Neill is credited for the phrase and is most closely associated with it. But perhaps the history-book writers were unfamiliar with William Eugene Higby, of Monument, early in the 20th Century.
Architecture, art, politics and history all get rolled up in a package and placed on the corner — the corner of Second Street and Washington, to be exact.
"W.E. Higby was known by everyone as Gene. He was very interested in public affairs and his public career began in 1910 when he was elected Treasurer of Monument. In 1912, he was elected mayor, and served continuously for 25 years. In 1912, he was also elected to the Republican precinct committeeman, and served continuously for 55 years. In 1920, he was elected to the board of District 38, a job he held for 15 years," wrote Lucille Lavelett in her book "Through the Years in Monument."
By 1932 he had entered State government becoming first a State Representative from El Paso County, then State Senator, and then Lieutenant Governor, by 1942. He ran, seeking the Governor's position shortly thereafter, but lost out in a four-way split at the assembly, but still reprised his role as Lt. Governor afterwards. Later, he served on the Colorado Springs Board of Health for more than 10 years. Interestingly enough, Gene Higby was the first person in Colorado to preside over both the House and Senate as he also served as Speaker of the House, of which he was elected unanimously.
In the meantime, he helped run a Hereford cattle operation with a spread of more than 4,000 acres, dreamed up the working ideas of an early jet engine propulsion, and worked, and operated  Higby Merchantile Co. That is where the corner of Second and Washington comes in.
The J.W. Higby family, Gene's dad, came to Colorado in 1888, homesteading in the Eastonville area first, and then moving to Monument and establishing Higby Mercantile Co. in 1900, on said corner.
The business was in continuous operation in Monument for 67 years.
Here is where the art, architecture, a little music and more history are folded in.
Jim Rand Moore, originally a native of Milwaukee, Wis., and educated at  Stanford University and University of of Wisconsin, after receiving an Economics degree, moved his family to Monument in 1971. He had fallen in love with Colorado, while visiting with his family that owned a small chain of fine men's clothing stores, MacNeil & Moore, one of which was at the Broadmoor Hotel.
"He loved classical as well as jazz music, fine architecture as well as fine art, and talented horses as well as talented equestrians," according to his biography, distributed among those gathered to honor him at his funeral in August, of 2007.
"He was a great musician mastering many musical instruments including the guitar, bass, banjo, trumpet, trombone, tuba, violin, and viola. He even produced a couple of albums as a member of the Dixieland Jazz Band, the Riverboat Rascals, back in the 1960s. He was also a talented artist in drawing, painting, and sculpture."
Lee and Rob Frisbee, of Monument Pharmacy, and current owners of the Chapala Building, which they bought from Moore in 2004, said he was a real force in Monument, over time.
"We appreciate anything that carries Jim's memory forward and casts him in the wonderful light he deserves," says Rob Frisbie.
As a general contractor, he designed and built many structures locally including the family's state-of-the-art solar heated Moutain Shadow Farm at the base of Mount Herman.
"He also turned his eye to the historic buildings of Downtown Monument and renovated the old 1900 Higby Mercantile Building into the Mexican-style Chapala Building. He also built Chapala North and the Monte Verde Building in the same unique style and many other downtown buildings were heavily influenced by his sense of design," according to his biography.
Although Gene Higby's and Jim Moore's physical presence have been gone for years now, their artistic and public-minded spirits still linger, at the corner of Second and Washington, and throughout the historic architecture of Monument. Politics, art, music and more, rolled up in a package and placed there on the corner.


Photo Information:

Photo 1: Higby Mercantile store, shortly after opening in 1900.

Photo 2: Inside the store in 1900.

Photo 3: W.E. Higby in store holding up a copy of the first issue of the Lake View Press.

Photo 4: The Chapala Building today.

Photo 5: Higby Mercatile in 1957.

Photo 6: Jim Rand Moore.

Photo 7: Old safe that still resides (and probably always will, because it is very heavy, and doesn't fit through any doors) in the Chapala Building.

Historic photos courtesy of Lucretia Vaile Museum.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Trains, magic, helping out, and seeing is believing

This story was written in January of 2016, as they set up for the last time in Palmer Lake. Gary Coleman passed away on Nov. 15, 2016, and Travis went to live with his sister.

Sometimes the most real things are the ones we can't see

By Rob Carrigan,

The Polar Express is basically the story of the power and magic of believing. Gary Coleman, 70, and his son Travis, 42, of Palmer Lake, know a thing or two about believing, and trains, and magic.
They are true believers.
Every year, for the last nine years, the two have created their own version of The Polar Express and used it to promote good, help people, and capture some winter-time magic locally. And though they got late start, this year is no different. With the help of family and friends, they set up O scale train layouts and recreate the worlds of wonder with the look and feel of small town America, and more than a few links to their hometown. This year's display is located in West End Center in Palmer Lake and encompasses really four different Polar Express trains and a trolley car, in at least two different gauges, and space of more than five full sheets of plywood.
"This year, any donations we collect will go to the children of victims of the Black Friday Shooting in Colorado Springs," said Gary Coleman.
The two have collected donations over the years for the Palmer Lake Fire Department, Awake the Lake, and other local efforts. Some years they raise as much as $700, Gary said.
The displays have been located many different places, including The Depot Restaurant, the Rock House, West End Center and the Western Museum of Mining and Industry, and the Depot still provides tickets for a cup of hot chocolate. That was where the original setup occurred years ago.
"We basically outgrew our own living room with all the layouts, even though we took all of our furniture out to make room. Alicia gave us a room upstairs at The Depot."
The setup was late getting started this year because trouble locating setup space and Gary fell, breaking his glasses and cutting his head. The arrival of new glasses enabling him to see well enough to put the complex layouts together delayed the process for the former Land Survey Company owner, mail carrier, and Palmer Lake Town Board Member.
But The Polar Express is not the Coleman's first railroad.
"My dad was the ticket supervisor at Union Station in Washington, D.C.," says Gary.  "When I moved out west with my mom, he would bring a train set, and other presents every year for Christmas, and spend all night setting them up so they would be operating on Christmas morning. I have liked trains ever since," he said.
That, in fact, played a role in him locating in Palmer Lake, alongside the Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks and train-watching community. He and Travis have been collecting and engineering miniature railroads since Travis was very young, and that life-long pursuit has rubbed off on other members of the family. His wife Mary, until her death nearly six years ago, helped paint buildings in the town, and collect Caribou, and create trees, bridges and other structures. A step daughter still helps Gary add to the fire department collection every year with a new engine, and things like El Paso County Sheriff's vehicles grace the landscapes.
"My favorite," says Travis of an American Flyer S Scale layout that looks hauntingly familiar to local landscapes with a diner reminiscent of Rosie's, and two Starbucks stands.
Posters of Santa and movie trailer shot adorn the walls and there is even a Star, complete with multiple engines and a replica of the bell, made famous by the movie.
And speaking of believing:
"At one time most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found on Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe," says main character Hero Boy in the movie The Polar Express.
For Travis and Gary Coleman the bell will never be silenced, and as the conductor said, "The thing about trains ... it doesn't matter where they are going. What matters is deciding to get on."
Sometimes, however, the most real things in the world are the things we can't see.

___ Rob Carrigan,