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Sesquicentennial Minute: The controversy over Balanced Rock

Photo: Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum
Photo: Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum
Photo: Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- One of the most popular places to take a picture in Colorado Springs was actually a hot spot for tourists a hundred years ago. And according to a local historian, the stress and controversy surrounding it made the first owner of the natural wonder "wildly unhappy."

A man named Paul Goerke originally owned Balanced Rock, and the area surrounding it. For decades, it was privately owned land, separate from Garden Of The Gods Park, where Goerke would charge tourists for taking a photo.

"He operated a photo studio right next to Balanced Rock, and he charged tourists to have their photograph taken on a burro in front of Balanced Rock," said Leah Witherow, curator at the Pioneers Museum.

Big problems arose when personal cameras became more popular and affordable; that's when Goerke built a fence around Balanced Rock, making him "wildly unpopular" and "wildly unhappy," according to Witherow.

"Because he wanted to solely make money off of Balanced Rock. And angry locals tore down the fence and he rebuilt the fence. And they tore it back down," she said.

Goerke's tourist trap was impeding traffic. Lawsuits dragged on for decades before he finally gave in to the city of Colorado Springs.

"Finally, in the 1930s, they purchased Paul Goerke's land, they opened it up to the public and they made that part of Garden Of The Gods park," said Witherow.

Sesquicentennial Minute is a summer series produced by KRDO's Josh Helmuth leading up to Colorado Springs' 150th birthday this July 31, 2021.

Josh Helmuth

Josh is an anchor for Good Morning Colorado. Learn more about Josh here.


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