Union Printers: A Dime at a Time

So, back to tuberculosis. This is the second in a series of posts chronicling some of the tuberculosis-influenced architecture in Colorado Springs. See the first post here

As you drive along Union Avenue, on the southern edge of downtown Colorado Springs, the small storefronts and retail spaces suddenly give way to this:

The Union Printers Home, built in 1892 by the International Typographical Union (ITU), to serve its elderly and sick members.

A beautiful building, made of “Castle Rock white lava stone, with red sandstone trimmings”, the home was first referred to as the Childs-Drexel Home for Union Printers. It was so named after its first two donors: George W. Childs and Anthony J. Drexel provided a $10,000 gift to the Union, which was used to kickstart the project. The remainder of the more than $71,000 in construction costs was gathered from union members, in some cases a dime at a time.

Once the money was raised, a battle began for where the home would be located. The Union heard proposals from Austin, Texas and the town of Semper, located just 9 miles north of Denver; in addition to Colorado Springs’ winning bid. The Colorado Springs Board of Trade wooed the Union with an offer to provide 80 acres of land and an argument that Colorado Springs served as “the most perfect sanitarium and health resort in the world for the cure of all forms of throat and lung diseases–diseases to which printers are especially liable…”

And so the home opened in 1892 as a 63-room structure referred to as “A Home for the Aged and Sanatorium for Tuberculars of the International Typographers Union.”

An annual report of sorts, published by the ITU in 1901, describes the rooms with words and photos. A small selection of the descriptions:

“On the first floor are the Childs parlors, Drexel memorial parlors, the Henry Ledyard and Jefferson Davis memorial rooms, San Francisco and St. Louis rooms, reading room and assembly hall, and superintendent’s office.

The second floor contains the Chicago, Denver and Inter-Ocean rooms, dormitories, linen rooms, etc. , while the third is mainly taken up with dormitories…

…The appointments of the various dormitories are of a neat and substantial character, being designed to fulfill the requirements and promote the welfare of those who may, from time to time, partake of the bounties of the Home.”

Today, the building still serves a public health function, operating as a private assisted living facility. And while the building is closed to the public, the grounds are open. You can still see it: the building exterior, the property and the head-on view of Pikes Peak, billed as a restorative environment for 120 years.

…..

Resources:

Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce. Colorado Springs: City of Sunshine. Colorado Springs: The Prompt Printery, 1917.

International Typographical Union. Union Printers Home. Indianapolis: The Hollenbeck Press, 1901. (Stamped as property of State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison.)

Historic photographs are from the Pikes Peak Library District’s online photography archive, and the 1901 UTI brochure referenced above, available through Google books.

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15 thoughts on “Union Printers: A Dime at a Time

    • I was so excited to see those images–if you didn’t already you should click through to the Union Printers’ full “annual report”. There are photos of just about every aspect of the home, including many more of the rooms.

  1. housestory, there’s a great book you might like called “A Life Consumed – Lilly Samson’s Dispatches From the TB Front” written by DIane Sims about her aunt who lived and died in a TB sanitorium and wrote narrative letters about her experience. It’s quite an extraordinary look at life inside a TB san.

    • Thank you! And yes, the building is definitely worth a drive by next time you’re nearby. The grounds are a bit more barren now then they were in the home’s heyday, but the massive presence of the home on so much land so close to downtown is impressive. Thanks for reading!

  2. Pingback: A History of Hospitals | housestory

  3. I love your take on architectural history–particularly the history of the builders and purpose of their creations. This is a great post. It is interesting that the place is still used to tuck people away who are no longer “useful” to society, because of their health. At least the surroundings are beautiful.

  4. What a great piece. Thank you for posting it. I am a 48-year member of the Detroit Typographical Union No. 18, a local union of the International Typographical Union (now merged with the Communication Workers of America) and in the early 1970s I visited a fellow union brother who was a resident of The Home. Although the interior was very clean and brightly painted, the charm of the Victorian design was maintained. It was like stepping back a century in time. The facility was owned by the union until just this year when a private company purchased it on May 1. I don’t know what interior renovations were made over the last 40 years, but hopefully they kept the Victorian appeal that made it so unique. Thanks again for bringing back a great memory for me.

  5. I, too, was a long time member of the ITU (Chicago 16 and San Diego 221) working my way through law school as a Linotype operator — for the most part. The Printer’s Home costs were always listed in our yearly union report of how the union spent our money. While there might have been arguments about other costs, there never was a complaint about money spent on the Home.

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