Sunday, September 27, 2020

Legendary party at the end, impressive funeral


Celebration of story and travel to another world

By Rob Carrigan, 
According to ancient Celtic custom, the date corresponding to Nov. 1, was the beginning of a new year. The ancient Celts celebrated the end of one year and the beginning of another with their largest festival known as Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween). It was during this time that they believed the souls of those who had died in the previous year travel to another world, but at least temporarily, could intermingle with the living. 

Ghost, on the other hand, has Germanic origins, deriving from “gast” in the language that became modern German. “Gast” originally identified a terrifying rage but later came to mean the disembodied spirit of someone who has died. 

With a deep-seated tradition of story telling in both the cultures, and strong percentages of Irish and German coursing through my own veins, I have chosen to celebrate the upcoming holiday with story. Some are old favorite stories that you have heard from me before. Others may be new and different to each of us.

But like the Irish Halloween tradition of Barmbrack, the ‘speckled loaf’ of sweet, yeasted (skimmed from the top of fermenting beer) bread, you may find more than raisins and sultanas in your loaf. 

The Halloween “Brack” traditionally functioned also as a fortune telling mechanism, as various objects were baked into the bread and when it was dispersed, fortune was told by what object was found in your particular piece. 

The pea found in your portion signified that you would not marry that year; the stick, “to beat one’s spouse” told of an unhappy marriage or continuous disputes; a rag or cloth marked a person with bad luck and poverty; a small coin (usually a silver six pence), on the other hand, tabbed the recipient for riches and good fortune; and the ring meant that you were to marry within a year.

My stories, by contrast, may, or may not contain elements from which to determine you own fate in the upcoming year. You, and you alone, can be the judge of that. The loaves are often served toasted with butter and cup of tea in the afternoon. Feel free to pick out the raisins if you don’t like them, or discard the whole thing. 

Beginning starts at the end

In the spirit of the season, perhaps it is best to start with Pearl, or Eliza Martin — because, as everyone knows, a good ghost story owes its origins to a funeral. It doesn't hurt that there were elements of sex, showmanship and betrayal involved, in addition to a legendary party at the end, and impressive funeral.

"She called herself Pearl De Vere, but even I, an eleven-year-old schoolgirl, knew it wasn't her right name," wrote Mabel Barbee Lee in her excellent autobiography "Cripple Creek Days," in 1958.

"People said she came from a good family in the East that believed she was a high-toned dressmaker — the designer of "DeVere Gowns" for the wives of Cripple Creek's millionaires. Actually she was the madam at the camp's fanciest sporting house, the Old Homestead on Myers Avenue," wrote Lee, and she describes several encounters with the "beautiful woman."

"She drove a span of high stepping black horses and rode in a single-seated phaeton with shinny red wheels. She held the reins firm, with a regal air, looking neither right nor left as if unconscious of the gawking miners who crowded the sidewalks. Sometimes she wore a changeable taffeta dress and wide, green velvet hat with matching willow plume atop her auburn pompadour, and again, she would be a study in brown, or black. Her dark lashes were so long they seemed to brush her pale cheeks, and shimmering puffs of her leg-o'mutton sleeves almost touched her delicate pink ears," Lee writes.

"Once in breathless instant when I was staring at her around a telegraph pole, she glanced down and smiled at me. I was spellbound; never had I laid eyes on such an enchanting vision! From that day, Pearl DeVere became my secret sorrow, the heroine of my fondest daydreams, mysterious, fascinating and forbidden."

Lee told of  Pearl De Vere's death and the funeral that followed.

"Pearl De Vere, madam at the Old Homestead, died early today from overdose of morphine," read an account in the Cripple Creek Times. "According to a denizen in the house, a gay party was in full swing when Pearl excused herself, saying that she felt indisposed."

"A throng turned out the day of the funeral, mostly children and miners. I watched them from the top of a barrel in front of Roberts' Grocery. Somebody claimed he saw ladies from up on the hill sitting in the shadows of upstairs office windows. The Elks Band headed by Joe Moore led the procession, playing the 'Death March." Then came the heavily draped hearse with the lavender casket almost hidden by a blanket red and white roses. Just behind , a man walked solemnly beside the empty rig with shiny red wheels, driving the span of restive black horses. A large cross of shell-pink carnations lay on the seat."

Lee continued describing the funeral:

"Now four mounted police were coming down the avenue, pushing back the crowd to make way for all the lodge members in brilliant regalia trying to keep step. The sight of their red fezzes, feathered helmets and gold braided scabbards sent thrills of ecstasy through me, Bringing up rear were buggies filled with thickly veiled women, who, a man said. were Pearl's friends from the row."

For years, Oscar Lampman took care of the dead in Cripple Creek. And it is a wonder more ghosts don't hover around 300 E. Bennett, the one-time base of operation of the basement undertaker. 

Legend says it was here, in his funeral parlor, where Pearl DeVere's sister, coming to collect Pearl's body (or Eliza Martin by given name,) noted the dyed auburn hair and found out her sister was no dressmaker but, instead, employed as madame at the Old Homestead brothel. The high-minded sister turned tail and caught the first train back East.

"Cripple Creek can bury its own dead," editorialized The Cripple Creek Times then. And area preachers suggested in sermon "let he [or she] who is without sin, cast the first stone," at the time.

"Many people in Cripple Creek were shocked when they heard what the sister had done," wrote Chas S. Clifton, in his 1983 book, Ghost Tales of Cripple Creek. "Pearl's generosity had been extended to both down-on-their-luck miners and girls from the tenderloin. These would not desert her. They made plans to pay funeral costs by auctioning the $800 Parisian ball gown Pearl had worn to die in, after she slipped away  from a party in progress at the Old Homestead."

"Oscar Lampman's records for Pearl's funeral on June 8 reflect a cost of $210.25, including what was no doubt an ornate casket for $115," wrote Jan MacKell in her 2004 book "Brothels, Bordellos, & Bad Girls." She says that legend holds that the girls of the Homestead tried to come up with the money and considered auctioning off the $800 dress she died in, but a mysterious man from Denver reportedly sent $1,000, along with a request that she be buried in that dress.

"Even today, Pearl's is the most well-remembered funeral in Cripple Creek history. Much of the town of Cripple Creek turned out to salute this generous and admired lady whose donations to poor and sick were not forgotten," says MacKell.

Photo 1:

Old Homestead Parlor House says this is a photo of Pearl, right, and her sister.

Photo 2:

Fairley Bros. & Lampman Building where Oscar Lampman practiced his undertaking craft in the basement.


Sunday, September 13, 2020

Coffin races, Grandpa Bredo, Headless Mike ...

Resilience is part of the event

By Rob Carrigan,

 Events  beyond our control have been lining up to take a shot at us this year.

But like a lot of misfortune, it turns out, that the real story of any event is our response. “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it,” just as Helen Keller noted.

And Colorado locations are known for creating an event — just to emphasize those responses.

 Emma Crawford Coffin Races and Festival

Since 1995, Manitou Springs has been holding the annual Emma Crawford Coffin Races and Parade. As one local website described it, “costumed impersonators of Emma Crawford, a 19th-century local who was buried on nearby Red Mountain, ride on coffin-like contraptions pulled by teams of four mourners. (Emma supposedly still haunts the mountain even though her coffin washed away years after her burial.) A parade and awards for the best Emma, the most creative coffin, and the best overall entourage complete the daylong event." Despite the notoriety of Emma Crawford, her legend as the ghost of Red Mountain has overshadowed factual information about her life, according to Manitou Springs Heritage Center. 
"Emma Crawford was born on March 24, 1863, in South Royalston, Massachusetts. Musical at a very early age, Emma developed her talent with the help of her mother, Madame Jeanette Crawford, who was a pianist and music teacher. It is said that at the age of three, Emma “liked no plaything better than to sit on the piano cover and to listen to her mother practicing Beethoven’s sonatas.” At age twelve, she gave piano lessons and public recitals, and at age 15, was “able to render the music of the great masters with rare perfection,” playing the piano parts in a series of concerts given by a renowned violinist and a cellist in Boston in the winter of 1878. 
Emma favored Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, and Wagner, and her playing style was 'distinguished by a most delicate touch, a soulful expression, and a power which seemed almost incredible by hands so tender and delicate.' She also played the violin, viola, cello, and mandolin—instruments she mastered while taking rests from her piano work," according to info from the Heritage Center. 
Musical and spiritual
Emma’s obituary in the Colorado City Iris reported that she “acquired her remarkable masterly control of the piano from spirit instruction and is said to have never taken a lesson at mortal hands in her life.” 

​Emma, who been ill since age seven, according to the Heritage Center, moved with her mother from Massachusetts to Manitou around 1889, in the hope that the local mineral springs (from which the city took its name) and the mountain air might be a cure for her illness, presumed to be tuberculosis. 

​Although not found in records such as city directories, longtime Manitou resident William “Bill” S.  Crosby recounted in 1947 that Emma and her mother initially rented a two-story frame house with a gable roof and bay windows located at 104 Capitol Hill Avenue. 
Emma stayed in Manitou in hopes of regaining her health in the fresh air and sunshine and became engaged to William Hildebrand, an engineer from New York who worked on the Pikes Peak Cog Railroad.
Next to music, nature was Emma’s second love, and she could be seen in a red dress climbing Red Mountain, which she nicknamed “Red Chief,” in honor of American Indians. 
Nature and Native Americans
A 1969 Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph article by Rufus Porter claims that the Crawfords were spiritualists, and like many spiritualists of the time period, believed they had “an Indian guide from the spirit world to protect them in the present one.”  
Many spiritualists of the time equated American Indian spirit guides with having a power to mend physical health. 
In the Porter article from 1969, the following anecdote is shared, more than likely coming from the 95-year-old Bill Crosby:

"One day Emma fancied she saw a handsome buck Indian beckoning to her from the top of Red Mountain. She vowed that she would climb the mountain and meet her Indian guide. Firm in her resolve, she revealed her plan to her mother and her lover. Both were opposed to such an ordeal for a girl in her delicate condition, as were all her friends and neighbors when they heard of it. But their pleadings were of no avail. She slipped off one day when her mother was teaching piano to a neighbor lady and climbed the mountain to the very top. She was very late getting back home, but no one would believe her when she told them where she had been. "
 Climbed Red Mountain

“I did so climb it,” she said, "and I tied my scarf to a little pinon pine tree on the summit, and I have decided that I will be buried beneath that tree.”
Crosby, reported as a friend of Emma’s, said that he climbed Red Mountain the following day and found Emma’s scarf tied to the tree, along with her footprints at the summit of Red Mountain that Emma wished to be buried, a request she is said to have made to a male friend (presumed to be William Hildebrand) while hiking on the mountain. Emma’s obituary reports that she “had a horror of cemeteries, formalities and anything low or gloomy, and even death, and wished to be carried high to sunshine and pure air.”
Emma’s death came on Dec. 4, 1891 at 10:30 p.m.
 Her obituary remarked, “The few who knew her here remarked her calm, unruffled mood, and though her life was such that intimates were few, she was known by nearly all as a musician of rare power and skill.”  The Manitou Springs Journal reported:

"Upon the door of a cottage on Ute avenue then hung pendant, several days thereafter [Emma’s death], a white cape [sic], though she, whose departure was thus announced, had in this life passed beyond the bower where brook and river meet."

The funeral services were held at “the family residence on Ute Avenue” on Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 8, 1891. That residence may have been 137 Ute Avenue where a City Directory some years later showed Emma’s Mother, sister Alice and niece Maurine boarding. Those who attended were “intimate friends and votaries of the faith to which the deceased was an adherent.” 
Votaries of the faith
“Votaries of the faith” perhaps alluded to the Society of Progressive Spiritualists of Colorado Springs. Reverend A. R. Kieffer, rector of Grace Episcopal Church, led the service and “based his remarks on a beautiful poem.” The reverend had some affiliation with the spiritualist society, appearing as a guest lecturer for the group in 1893. The Manitou Springs Journal characterized the service as “unusual, but very impressive, and partook not of the customary sadness of such scenes.” Emma’s mother, Jeanette, performed a selection of piano pieces with “peculiarly sweet melody and weird harmony.”
Crosby recalled that Emma’s fiancée, William Hildebrand, tried unsuccessfully to get a deed to the site for burial on the summit of Red Mountain. Her burial at that location, where “a beautiful view can be obtained",
 however, proceeded. 
"The gray casket with silver handles and silver engraved nameplate was carried to a hearse and driven up four blocks on Ruxton Avenue. Then, a group of twelve pallbearers worked in two shifts to transport Emma’s casket to the top of Red Mountain. H. H. Gosling, J. G. Hiestand, David Jones, Peter Mistler, and Howard Jones were names of some of pallbearers. Crosby, who was a teenager at the time, accompanied his grandfather, H. H. Gosling, to the burial and remembered, “They buried Emma on the mountain top, beneath an ugly wind-swept tree, and they covered the grave with rocks. Hildebrand stood like a stricken man beside that grave. The mother and other mourners only went as far as the cañon."
Crosby recalled that Emma’s grave was moved over on the west side of Red Mountain, put into “loose gravel,” and covered with a concrete slab when the Red Mountain Incline erected a power house and depot on the summit.
 Although Crosby recalled this event as happening in 1924, newspapers reported the construction of Red Mountain Incline occurring in 1912. 
On Aug.  4, 1929, two boys found a human skull on Red Mountain and were questioned by police. Marshal David S. Banks of Manitou investigated and found wrapped in a bundle human bones and the handle of a coffin at “the back of the Colorado house on Waltham Avenue.” 
Rest in peace
The Colorado House (a boarding house) was located 397 Manitou Avenue (now 1143 Manitou Avenue) and the property extended between Manitou and Waltham Avenues. Given the proximity to Red Mountain, the remains would have been moved to Waltham from where they were originally found. A casket nameplate was also recovered which confirmed the remains were in fact those of Emma L. Crawford. The remains were brought to City Hall. In the issue of the reburial of Emma on Red Mountain, the El Paso County coroner, Dr. G. B. Gilmore, claimed that he had no jurisdiction in the matter, as outside of an incorporated town, as was Red Mountain, persons could bury their dead where they wished. The August 16, 1929, Gazette reported that a new grave for Emma Crawford would be dug in a Manitou cemetery.
"Emma's restless remains stayed in storage for two years as the city tried in vain to find surviving relatives. Finally, one of her pallbearers, Bill Crosby, took responsibility for her remains and it was then she was interred at Crystal Valley Cemetery. Either way, she was buried in an unmarked grave.  In 2004 (9 years after her memorial festival began) Historic Manitou Springs, Inc. provided Emma with a memorial stone in the approximate vicinity of where her bones were buried all those years ago. The Heritage Center’s wish was that Emma be honored her spirit rest in peace."
Frozen Dead Guy Days
"Grandpa Bredo is over 110 years old. For at 30 years, he’s taken up residence in a Tuff Shed in the hills above Nederland, Colorado, where he remains very, very, very cold. More specifically, Grandpa is frozen in a state of suspended animation, awaiting the big thaw. The one that will bring him back to life," says

There is a good story behind this, one that stretches from Norway to California to Colorado, involving cryonics, deportation, psychics, celebrations, and a dedicated Ice Man. It’s a tale that has captured international attention and sparked a must-attend annual event called Frozen Dead Guy Days.

Life After Death

"Before Grandpa Bredo Morstoel died from a heart condition in 1989, he enjoyed a comfortable life in Norway, where he was born and raised. He loved painting, fishing, skiing, and hiking in the mountains of his homeland. He was also the director of parks and recreation in Norway’s Baerum County for more than 30 years," reports the site.

"After he died, things got really interesting. Instead of a burial, he was packed in dry ice and prepared for international travel. First, he was shipped to the Trans Time cryonics facility in Oakland, California, where he was placed in liquid nitrogen for almost four years. Then, he was moved to Colorado in 1993 to stay with his daughter Aud Morstoel and his grandson Trygve Bauge, both strong advocates for cryonics who hoped to start a facility of their own."

There he stayed for years under cold cover, in a shed, near his grandson’s home, and about to be left on his own, due to some pesky visa issues.

The Grandfather Clause

"If you peruse the laws of Nederland, you’ll discover that it’s illegal to store a frozen human or animal (or any body part thereof) in your home. We have Grandpa Bredo to thank for this. When grandson Trygve was deported in the mid-90s because of an expired visa, Bredo’s daughter stepped in to take care of the household – including keeping her father on ice."

However, Aud was evicted for living in a house with no electricity or plumbing and was about to head back to Norway. This meant that the family’s fledgling cryonics facility was destined to come to a halt. Worried that her father would thaw out before his time, she spoke to a local reporter, who spoke to the Nederland city council, who passed Section 7-34 of the municipal code regarding the “keeping of bodies.”

Luckily for Bredo, he was grandfathered in and allowed to stay. Suddenly, he was a worldwide media sensation. And he has been well cared for by his family and community ever since.

The Iceman

 "Bo Shaffer saw an intriguing want ad on the Internet in 1995 posted by Trygve. He applied for the one-of-a-kind job, got it, and is now known as the “Ice Man.” Every month, Shaffer and a team of volunteers delivers 1,600 pounds of dry ice and packs it around Grandpa Bredo in his sarcophagus, surrounded by foam padding, a tarp, and blankets. As Cryonicist-in-Charge, Shaffer keeps Grandpa at a steady -60 degrees Fahrenheit. He also gives tours to investigators, filmmakers, local volunteers, and even psychics who have purported to communicate with the dearly departed (by one account, Bredo is amused by the fuss but doing fine)," says

"Shaffer feels the weight of this responsibility, knowing how much has been invested in keeping Grandpa in his cryonic state. Now frozen for over 20 years, he has kept the hope alive for his family and their faith in cryonics, as well as spurring an annual festival in Nederland that has grown into a full-fledged winter celebration."

Dead Man’s Party

For a town like Nederland that thrives on the colorful, the offbeat, and the weird, Frozen Dead Guy Days is a fitting way to end the short days of winter and head into the melting snows of spring. Trygve Bauge calls it “Cryonics’ first Mardi Gras.”

The community experiences a new burst of life with the festival’s creative contests, icy events (including coffin racing, polar plunging, frozen salmon tossing) basically if it is fun and can be done in the cold, it goes! People come from around the world every March to experience the legacy of Grandpa Bredo – even representatives of cryonics organizations who want share the science behind this unique story.

Pecking through dust in Fruita

Sept. 10, 1945 finds a strapping (but tender) young rooster pecking through the dust of Fruita, Colorado. The unsuspecting bird had never looked so delicious as he did that, now famous, day. Clara Olsen was planning on featuring the plump chicken in the evening meal. Husband Lloyd Olsen was sent out, on a very routine mission, to prepare the designated fryer for the pan. Nothing about this task turned out to be routine. Lloyd knew his mother-in-law would be dining with them and would savor the neck. He positioned his ax precisely, estimating just the right tolerances, to leave a generous neck bone. "It was as important to suck-up to your mother-in-law in the 40's as it is today." A skillful blow was executed and the chicken staggered around like most freshly terminated poultry.

"Then the determined bird shook off the traumatic event and never looked back. Mike (it is unclear when the famous rooster took on the name) returned to his job of being a chicken. He pecked for food and preened his feathers just like the rest of his barnyard buddies," says information from

Will to live
"When Olsen found Mike the next morning, sleeping with his "head" under his wing, he decided that if Mike had that much will to live, he would figure out a way to feed and water him. With an eyedropper Mike was given grain and water. It was becoming obvious that Mike was special. A week into Mike's new life Olsen packed him up and took him 250 miles to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City . The skeptical scientists were eager to answer all the questions regarding Mike's amazing ability to survive with no head. It was determined that ax blade had missed the jugular vein and a clot had prevented Mike from bleeding to death. Although most of his head was in a jar, most of his brain stem and one ear was left on his body. Since most of a chicken's reflex actions are controlled by the brain stem Mike was able to remain quite healthy," the site says.
18 Months
"In the 18 Months that Mike lived as "The Headless Wonder Chicken" he grew from a mere 2 1/2 lbs. to nearly 8 lbs. In an interview, Olsen said Mike was a "robust chicken - a fine specimen of a chicken except for not having a head."   Miracle Mike took on a manager, and with the Olsens in tow, set out on a national tour. Curious sideshow patrons in New York , Atlantic City, Los Angeles , and San Diego lined up to pay 25 cents to see Mike. The "Wonder Chicken" was valued at $10,000 and insured for the same. His fame and fortune would earn him recognition in Life and Time Magazines. It goes without saying there was a Guinness World Record in all this. While returning from one of these road trips the Olsens stopped at a motel in the Arizona desert. In the middle of the night Mike began to choke. Unable to find the eyedropper used to clear Mike's open esophagus Miracle Mike passed on.

 Now on the first weekend in June — Mike "the headless chicken" festival.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Lasting legacy with a matte glaze

 All the best with Van Briggle pottery

By Rob Carrigan,

At one time, it was in all the best houses in the area. Maybe in tiles near the fireplace, or matte glazed vases in the tony Victorian parlors, or a set of candle holders upon the mantle ...

Until just a few years ago, Van Briggle Art Pottery was the oldest continuously operating art pottery in the United States, having been established in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1901 by Artus and Anne Van Briggle.

When I first lived in Colorado Springs in the late 1990s, our family would visit what was once the old Midland Round House on 21st Street and U.S. Highway 24 — which at that time, still housed Van Briggle Pottery. It was possible then to catch them at the wheel "throwing a pot."

Art Nouveau

The Art Nouveau style favored by its founders continues to influence the pottery's designs today. 

The historic 14-stall railroad roundhouse in Colorado Springs was also on my way to work, for years as  I managed papers later in Manitou Springs and Woodland Park. The building was originally built and operated by the Colorado Midland Railroad which was founded in 1883 but the roundhouse dates from 1887-88. 

It was located in Colorado City until 1917, when Colorado City became part of Colorado Springs. Due to the World War I Railroad War Board rerouting of Colorado Midland traffic to the Denver and Rio Grande Western, the Colorado Midland shutdown in 1917 and went into bankruptcy in 1918. The roundhouse was then owned and operated by the Midland Terminal Railway which purchased the Colorado Midland portion from Colorado Springs to Divide, Colorado in 1921. That road shut down in 1949, and quick pulled up tracks.


50 years

"Van Briggle Pottery purchased the roundhouse in 1955 and renovated the building with interior partitions, office space and pottery plant. They called it their Midland Plant. Van Briggle prospered at the location for over 50 years until they moved to a new location in November 2008. The size of the roundhouse had become a burden on the business and the owners wanted to downsize. They reopened at 1024 S. Tejon Street in May 2009," according to information from the company at the time.

"Artus Van Briggle settled in Colorado Springs in 1899 after establishing himself as a notable artist with the Rookwood Pottery of Ohio. With Anne Louise (née Gregory), his new wife, Artus began exploring the Art Nouveau style in their pottery creations, drawing awards and accolades from the American and European art communities. Although he was a talented painter who had displayed and won awards in Europe, from 1899 until his death Artus devoted himself almost exclusively to the craft and art of pottery."

Health struggles

In 1899, struggling with health issues due to tuberculosis, Artus had left Rookwood and moved to the drier air of Colorado Springs. 

"Upon befriending the Holmes family of Chico Basin, he stayed at the HOP Ranch during the summers of 1899, 1900, and 1901 to reduce work stress and regain strength while pursuing his own styles of pottery, centered around the Art Nouveau movement. He continued his research on the ancient matte glazes that fascinated him in Paris. After two years of trials and experiments a matte glaze was perfected. One of the matte glazes perfected by Artus was the matte blue glaze, based on an ancient Chinese process that had long been lost to history," 

"Artus opened Van Briggle Pottery in 1901 and was joined by Anne Gregory, who took a position as a high school art teacher in Colorado Springs. In 1903, Artus Van Briggle was appointed First Director of the Department of Art and Design in Colorado College, succeeding Louis Soutter, a Swiss artist (born in Geneva, Switzerland) he met in Paris in 1895," according to Colorado College information.

"In 1902, Anne and Artus were married, and she devoted herself to their pottery; she created designs and collaborated in all aspects of the enterprise with her husband. Late 1902 brought Van Briggle awards for his glazes and designs in Art Nouveau from the prestigious Paris Salon; he was now an accepted artist. During their early years, Artus and Ann established hundreds of Art Nouveau styles of pottery under the Van Briggle name. The Despondency vase won Van Briggle wide acclaim and first place at the Paris Salon in 1903. A display at the 1904 Centennial Exhibit in St. Louis won Van Briggle more awards and greater international fame," says the college.

Founder passes

Artus Van Briggle died in July 1904, at the age of 35. Anne continued the pottery using the forms created by Artus as a foundation and adding more designs of her own. In 1907, Anne and pottery stockholder and city-founder William Jackson Palmer began construction on a new pottery on Uintah Street. The Van Briggle Memorial Pottery — designed by Dutch architect Nicholas Van den Arend — was opened in 1908 and stands today as an historic landmark noted for its architecture and use of ceramics in the facade.

Having remarried in 1908, Anne Louise Gregory Ritter leased the pottery in 1912 to Edmund deForest Curtis, who ran it until 1916 She sold the company in 1922 to J.F. and I.H. Lewis and moved to Denver the following year, where she would concentrate on painting and where she remained until her death in 1929.  In her absence, the pottery suffered financial hardships and was sold at sheriff's auction; then resold,  once more returning to possession of Curtis.

Hard survival

"The pottery was sold twice more in the ensuing decade and survived a fire in 1919 that gutted the interior but left the brick shell and kilns. New owners I.F. and J.H. Lewis took the opportunity to modernize and expand the facility beginning in 1920 and stabilized the production and financial aspects of the pottery for the first time. Despite damage from the flood of 1935—the most destructive flood in Colorado Springs history— that destroyed much of the company's records and molds, the pottery continued to enjoy success up to World War II, when they closed for approximately three years as the United States focused its resources on the war effort,"

"With the increase of interstate travel in the United States a freeway was planned in 1953 for Colorado Springs which J.H. Lewis estimated would run through the Memorial Plant site. Although the freeway eventually was planned to avoid destroying the historic pottery, Lewis put relocated the pottery to a higher-traffic area of Colorado Springs. In 1955, Lewis and Clem Hull brought a new facility on line at a renovated railroad roundhouse on Midland Road. The new facility, known as the Midland Plant, had a smaller capacity but enjoyed quick success due to its location on the main highway to the Garden of the Gods and other tourist locations."

Changing times

In 1968, Lewis sold the Memorial Plant to Colorado College, and it fell into disrepair for the ensuing 40 years, being used variously as offices and storage, according to information from the school, school information indicates.

Van Briggle's Art Nouveau designs and distinctive matte glazes were awarded high honors from prestigious sources, including the Paris Salon, the Saint Louis Exposition, the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition, and the American Arts and Crafts Exhibition in Boston.

The Van Briggle Pottery Studio closed in spring 2012.


Photo 1: From 1908 to 1968, the building operated as a pottery factory producing thousands of ceramic art and architectural pieces. The building stands today at Southeast of the intersection of West Uintah Street and Glen Avenue in Colorado Springs.

Photo 2: The pottery building originally housed the salesroom, administrative offices, studios, kilns, workshops, and other functional rooms of the manufacturer and was designed to display the wares produced inside. Designed by Dutch architect Nicolaas van den Arend in a picturesque manner displaying Flemish farmhouse and Arts and Crafts influences, the building provides an overall impression of solidity, bright colors, and varied shapes and textures.

Photo 3: Traditional Van Briggle work around the fireplace at the Burgess House at Colorado College.

Photo 4: The distinctive building served as an advertisement for the company and its image appeared on its promotional materials and letterhead. The walls are composed of red brick with many blackened headers, laid in Flemish bond with white mortar, and enlivened with thousands of polychrome Van Briggle tiles and terra cotta ornaments placed to display their architectural use in decorative panels, chimney caps, window features, and even a sculptural cat and a gargoyle.

Photo 5: Today, the property is owned by Colorado College, whose historic campus lies to the east; its Facilities Services Department occupies the pottery building.

Photo  6: A potter practicing the craft at Van Briggle in the early days.

Photo 7: The old Midland Round House.