(All photos in this slideshow are by Helen and James McCaffery, courtesy of Special Collections, Pikes Peak Library District. Best viewed in full screen mode by clicking on arrows in lower-right corner of slide show)

Warning: For those who imagine a quaint and walkable downtown Colorado Springs full of beautiful buildings, apartments and entertainment venues, this slide show may painful to watch (probably even more painful than our slide show of the destruction of The Burns/Chief Theater because the scope is so much larger). It’s a stark portrait of the destructive local history of urban renewal that took place across the United States after World War II when the country wanted to look toward the future more than the past (and make a bunch of money while doing so). We now live in different times, and many have come to value our history in different ways and would rather see renovation and restoration rather than wholesale destruction and rebuilding. Sadly, many of the great buildings we once had would be impossible to rebuild both because of lost building techniques and cost.

In any case, these photos, which were created as “retrophotography composites” by the PPLD’s Special Collections, are a rare color portrait of downtown’s past and past-future. The collection was just recently posted at the Pikes Peak Public Library’s lovely online archive and we highly recommend searching “McCaffery” to see their other photos.

Katie Rudolph, the Pikes Peak Public Library’s Photo Archivist, wrote:

James and Helen McCaffery took photos of the urban renewal that was taking place in Colorado Springs in the 1950-1970s. The photos were taken by amateur photographers, but most are in color (a bit unusual for 1950s, 1960s photos) and capture the destruction that was going on during that time period. Helen and James photographed buildings prior to demolition and after—such as the Antlers Hotel, the Chief Theater, Latonia Apartments, and Glockner Hospital. Though James passed away, Helen McCaffery has been working with one of our volunteers, Nita Peters, to identify many of the photos and match up some of the pre-demolition and post-demolition images. Helen still has the bug to photograph more of the sites around Colorado Springs.

We’d love to hear from you in the comments if you have any memories of the bygone buildings in these photos or the urban renewal process in Colorado Springs. Thanks!


4 Responses to Then and Now: Portraits of Urban Renewal

  1. CEK says:

    Buildings with unique character and history replaced with sterile “modern” buildings with no character. Yes, very painful to see.

  2. Jeremy says:

    Thanks for sharing. Knowledge is power. Unfortunately, can’t turn back the clock. On the other hand, doubt the local citizenry will ever let this type of wholesale demolition of our treasured architectural past happen again.

  3. CJ says:

    Oh, my! I cannot tell you how important these photos are. The one of the corner of Pikes Peak and Weber shows where my family owned a “parking lot” in the ’60s. I am a native, so these pictures tell a sad tale–the Antlers Hotel was classic and now it is just~~

  4. Jeff Stachel says:

    How evocative the view the old Black & White Service building, a business my father managed. Traffic rules were so lenient that we would drive cars against traffic on Bijou to bring them back thru the front of the building! Summer jobs sweeping the shop, listening to the echoes of grinders. And people going next door to the Alta Vista Hotel bar for a midday drink. The business was moved to 1130 S. Tejon in 1971, changing the lettering on the old Safeway sign to read Black & White Auto, which is grandfathered to this day. The business is now in its 57th year!


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