Colorado Springs, a Front Range city in Colorado, is best known for its natural beauty and world-class outdoor recreation. It's the home of Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods, and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center. Aside from that, though, the Colorado Springs community is also brimming with fascinating history, has bragging rights in the animal kingdom, inspired an iconic American song, and much more. Read on to learn several fun facts you never knew about Colorado Springs.
Nikola Tesla Built an Experimental Lab Here
Colorado as a whole has long been considered a hub for the technology industry, and it seems that reputation dates back even further than many people may realize. Although the exact location remains a secret, engineer and inventor Nikola Tesla built a top-secret experimental laboratory in Colorado Springs in 1899.
Known as the "Lost Laboratory," Tesla's secret lab was primarily used for experimenting with extending radio wave transmissions. The initial project that brought Tesla to Colorado Springs was to transmit a radio wave from the very top of Pikes Peak to Paris. The high altitude, thin air, and generally clear skies made Colorado Springs an ideal environment for this experiment, and it was backed and funded by the El Paso Power Company and millionaire investor John Jacob Astor.
Despite telling the press about the experiment, Tesla was tight-lipped about the details. It's said that even his research team didn't know exactly what he was up to! Tesla held nearly 300 patents and is responsible for creating and developing radio, wireless communication, robotics, and remote control. Can you imagine what your home might be like today without remotes and wireless technology?
To this day, Tesla's exact findings from Colorado Springs are unknown. His lab was dismantled in the early 1900s, and everything it contained was auctioned off.
Colorado Springs Is Home to the Longest-Running Women's Film Festival
Although Cannes, Sundance, and the Toronto International Film Festival may be better-known, Colorado Springs is home to the longest-running women's film festival in North America: the Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival. The festival has been running continuously for over 30 years and has a mission of "honoring films and filmmakers that present the world as women experience it."
The film festival runs for several days, typically with 2–3 films per day shown and several filmmaker and production discussions after the screenings. There are also galas and other mixer events. In 2020, the festival spanned nine days and featured 35 films from 39 different states.
In addition to the main annual film festival, Rocky Mountain Women's Film (RMWF) also hosts several other special events throughout the year, including retreats and outdoor film screenings on a rooftop pool deck. RMWF also maintains a donation-based library and offers occasional free screenings. The festival is entirely supported by volunteers and donations.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Has the Largest Herd of Reticulated Giraffes in North America
Not only does Colorado Springs' Cheyenne Mountain Zoo have the largest herd of reticulated giraffes in North America, but it's also home to the largest herd of any giraffe of any zoo on the continent. The herd consists of 17 giraffes ranging in age from about two to over 23 years old. Reticulated giraffes are more commonly known as Somali giraffes, and there are about 8,500 living in the wild throughout the world, primarily in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo's giraffe breeding program was established in 1954 and has been incredibly successful, resulting in more than 200 baby giraffes being born during those 70+ years. There's a fun and long-held tradition at the zoo to name baby giraffes once they are 30 days old. The zoo also posts live-stream cameras when one of the giraffes is pregnant, creating an exciting frenzy called "giraffe baby watch."
Aside from its own programs right here in Colorado Springs, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo supports other giraffe conservation programs worldwide, including Uganda's Operation Twiga. This program aims to establish and grow healthy new giraffe populations by relocating healthy giraffes to safer areas to begin breeding safely.
"America the Beautiful" Was Inspired by Pikes Peak
Almost everyone who grew up in the United States knows at least a few lines from "America the Beautiful."
"O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain! America! America! God shed His grace on thee And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea!"
The song was originally a poem written in 1893 by poet and writer Katharine Lee Bates. Bates wrote the song during a visit to Colorado Springs, and more specifically, a trip up to the 14,115-foot summit of Pikes Peak. The line "All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse" is said to be directly inspired by Bates' expansive view from the summit. The poem was originally published on July 4, 1895, in a weekly paper called The Congregationalist. It wasn't long before someone set it to music, and in the coming years, Bates made several revisions to the poem. The version we know today has been the same since 1913.
While many people confuse "America the Beautiful" for the United States' national anthem (that honor belongs to the "Star-Spangled Banner"), it is, in fact, not any "official" song. Interestingly, "America the Beautiful" was in the running to become the country's official national anthem but ultimately lost in 1931.
One of Colorado Springs' Ghosts Has Been Featured on TV
Much of Colorado—including Colorado Springs—was settled during the Gold Rush during the late 1800s. Knowing that, it should come as no surprise that many of Colorado's towns and cities have reputations for being haunted.
One of the most legendary haunted places in the entire city is the Evergreen Cemetery, established a full decade before the city itself. People have been buried in Evergreen since the 1860s, and Colorado Springs wasn't officially incorporated until 1871.
To this day, many people report feeling certain otherworldly "presences" on the cemetery grounds. There are reports of a headless woman dressed in all black who roams through the rows of graveyards, as well as multiple accounts of inexplicable "dark figures" in various areas. The most notable ghost story at Evergreen Cemetery, though, is the small chapel built in 1910. A cable TV show called My Ghost Story documented a mysterious "crypt door" opening and closing, which no one has ever been able to explain.