The history of the University of Colorado dates back to the earliest days of Colorado and precedes the creation of the state. At its first session in 1861, the Colorado territorial legislature passed an act providing for the creation of a university in Boulder. To establish the university, the legislature appropriated $15,000, which was matched by Boulder residents. However, the formal founding was delayed for another fifteen years by the Civil War. When Colorado became the 38th state in the Union in 1876, the university was declared an institution of the state, and the Board of Regents of the University of Colorado was established under Colorado's State Constitution as its governing authority.
The University of Colorado Colorado Springs has a rich history as a site and campus. Many millennia before any students began studying here, a small group of ancestral American Indians set up camp overlooking an arroyo on the west edge of what is now the campus. Remains from approximately 30 sites used by Plains Indians from about 100 A.D. to 1400 A.D. dot the campus grounds. The cultural heritage of the area is witnessed not only architecturally and in diverse ecological phenomena but also in the significant prehistoric archeological components observable throughout the campus acreage. The daily discarded artifacts of Cragmor Sanitarium life - medicine bottles, crumbling foundations, and broken dishes are intertwined with artifacts from the prehistory of the region.
Henry Austin, for whom the bluffs on campus were named, purchased a large part of what is now the campus in 1873 to graze herds of sheep. The first known building on the site was a cabin built by the world-famous physician, Dr. Edwin Solly. Dr. Solly suffered from tuberculosis and moved from England to the area, as the region was becoming known for its healthy climate. After years of planning for a sanitarium on the site, Dr. Solly was spurred into action in 1902 when General William Jackson Palmer (founder of Colorado Springs) gave him 100 acres of land on Austin Bluffs and $50,000 towards the start of his sanitarium. Solly selected one of the most important and versatile architects working in southern Colorado, Thomas MacLaren. MacLaren (1863-1928), acknowledged master of architecture, designed many structures in Colorado Springs including several sections of the opulent BROADMOOR Hotel. The sanitarium building echoed the aesthetics of the founders merging with Spanish-Moorish influence; it embodied the heritage of the builders of Colorado Springs and the understated beauty of the Hispanic culture. Cragmor Sanitarium (now Main Hall) opened its doors to patients on June 20, 1905, and thereafter became the most luxurious place for well-to-do consumptives in the United States. Dr. Solly named the site Cragmoor (later shortened to Cragmor), reminiscent of the crags and moors he had left behind in Great Britain.
Cragmor became the health mecca for artists, writers, and corporate tycoons who found not only their health but also a new home in Colorado Springs. Laura la Tille (Broadway performer), Constance Pulitzer (Joseph Pulitzer's daughter), Murielane Pancost (concert soprano), Jeanette MacCoil, (well-known New York musician), and Russell Cheney (renowned painter) spent time and regained their health at Cragmor.
Upon his death, Solly was memorialized as a world class physician who had brought the Colorado Springs community to global acclaim for its outstanding health facility. Ironically, the world forgot Solly as Cragmor became even more established under the direction of new leaders in health care: Gerald B. Webb, Alexius M. Forster, Otto Einstein, and George J. Dwire. The 1930's stock market crash brought financial disaster to many of the Cragmor Sanitarium's exclusive clientele. The facility was adapted to serve the health needs of less affluent patients. Alexius Forster's death in 1954 (took charge of Cragmor in 1910 at age 29) found Cragmor at a loss for medical and financial leadership. The last decade of the sanitarium's homeopathic life was to become tied to the Bureau of Indian Affairs as Navaho Indians were flown in to Cragmor. This was one of the first public health programs launched by the newly formed U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW). The first Indian patients arrived at Cragmor in 1952 with the signing of a government contract between the Cragmor Foundation and HEW. The institution would be guaranteed a permanent base of financial support. In return, Cragmor would provide for the medical needs of hundreds of tuberculous Navajos. George Dwire, Managing Director, oversaw the decade of fiscal recovery for the institution. He created a dynamic program which not only provided for the health needs of hundreds of Navajos infected with tuberculosis but also expanded to include educational and occupational therapy. As the health crisis of the Navajo people subsided so did the Federal funding for Cragmor. By April of 1962, remaining patients were being transferred to other facilities.
As early as the 1920s, the University of Colorado offered courses at numerous Colorado Springs locations including Colorado College and various storefronts. By the mid-1960s, community leaders were pressing for a full-fledged University of Colorado presence in the community. In his negotiations with then-Governor John Love, Hewlett-Packard (HP) co-founder David Packard, a Pueblo native, wanted a permanent University of Colorado campus in Colorado Springs to support the educational needs of company employees. The combination of the state's desire to attract HP to Colorado Springs and George J. Dwire's sale of the defunct 80-acre Cragmor Sanitarium property for $1 led to birth of the Colorado Springs Center of the University of Colorado. June 15, 1964 commemorated the funding and legislation signed by Governor Love allowing the University of Colorado to assume custody of Cragmor. In 1965, the Colorado Springs Center of the University of Colorado opened on the south side of Austin Bluffs, an area which showcased a spectacular panoramic view of Pikes Peak and the Garden of the Gods; tuition was $13 per credit hour. Professor offices in Cragmor Manor (now Cragmor Hall) were equipped with small kitchenettes and private bathrooms, due to the building's previous use as a nursing home; Cragmor Manor was added to the Sanitarium in the 1950s. A few offices were still outfitted with this unique piece of history as late as 2002; Cragmor Hall was completely remodeled and reopened in January 2004.
From 1965 to 1972, the Colorado Springs Center operated as a division or extension of the Boulder campus. It became the first permanent home for a growing following of scholars. Colorado Constitutional Amendment 4, approved at the 1972 Colorado General Election, designated the Colorado Springs campus and two other centers as distinct campuses of the University of Colorado. Dwire Hall opened as the first solely academic building on campus in Spring 1972; it was completely remodeled in 2007. In 1974, the University of Colorado reorganized into four campuses - Colorado Springs, Boulder, Denver, and the Health Sciences Center in Denver. The two Denver campuses later consolidated administratively in June 2004; the model was reversed in 2014 for each campus to again have its own chancellor. 1974 also marked the establishment of the first Chancellor of the Colorado Springs campus, with ties to the Boulder campus being changed to have the campus directly reporting to the President of the University. UCCS grew over the years, and in 1996 the first on-campus student housing opened. The next year a community referendum merged the city-owned Beth-El College of Nursing with the campus. During the 2010-2011 new branding campaign, "at" was removed from the official UCCS name - University of Colorado at Colorado Springs - to become University of Colorado Colorado Springs.
The initial university programs of engineering and business still serve as pillars of the university and are joined by a broad range of degree programs offered in the liberal arts and sciences, as well as professional programs in nursing, education and public affairs, to meet the needs of Colorado's second-largest metropolitan area and beyond. In 2012, Colorado Springs voters again added to the UCCS campus by agreeing to lease city-owned Memorial Hospital to University of Colorado Health. As part of the agreement, an administrative branch of the CU School of Medicine is in the Lane Center for Academic Health Sciences at UCCS. From its original 80 acres, UCCS has added 450 additional acres along Austin Bluffs Parkway and North Nevada Avenue. 2015 saw the start of robust growth on North Nevada. The student population has grown significantly as well, surpassing 11,000 enrolled students in the spring of 2015.
-- Written by Andrea Cordova