Without kids for the day, my husband and I decided to do a little cultural tourism in our own backyard. We headed over to Old Colorado City (1859), a national historic district in Colorado Springs, for some lunch and wandering.
Because I love, love, love (did I say love?) architectural walking tours, and because my husband is a good sport, we decided to follow a self-guided tour published by the Old Colorado City Historical Society before we ate lunch. Centered along Colorado Avenue, the tour focused on commercial buildings which were mainly grocery stores, fraternal lodges and saloons in their heyday.
But the real story here is in the space between those buildings…
As you walk down Colorado Avenue, every so often, you pass a tiny 6-foot wide surprise. Small buildings housing boutique shops and an art gallery fill in spaces left behind by “horse alleys”.
While there isn’t a lot of documentation on the horse alleys, from the few written references available, the history goes something like this:
Patrons of Old Colorado City would ride their horses to town to run errands and entertain themselves in the buildings lining Colorado Avenue. And while they took care of their business, the horses took care of their business. (If you know what I mean.)
By all accounts, Old Colorado City was a raucous town, full of gambling rooms, brothels and bars. But, it was also home to a group of visionary women. Women who, while putting up with a lot of disorderly conduct in their small town, drew the line at horse piles along the main street.
So, these women reportedly fought for rules that required a “horse alley” be left between any new buildings. And they won.
With the new laws in place, a visitor would ride their horse up to a store, and rather than tying the horse up out front, would instead dismount and chivalrously walk the horse through the alley to the back of the building.
Today, as you walk along the 2400-2500 blocks of Colorado Avenue, you can see where several of the horse alleys once were. At least one of the alleys is still open for pedestrian traffic, a narrow path allowing access to cars now, rather than horses.
There must have been other towns with horse alleys in the middle of blocks like this, but I don’t see a lot of information out there. Does your town have a history of horse alleys?
Resources: Cathleen Norman, In & Around Old Colorado City, A Walking Tour. Colorado, Preservation Publishing, 2001.
Hughes, Dave. “The Horse Alleys of Colorado City.” Fresh Ink, June 23, 2010.