Curious Colorado: Who’s that statue and why’s it in the middle of the road?

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — It’s hard to miss. Right in the middle of downtown Colorado Springs, where Nevada and Platte avenues intersect, sits a giant bronze statue.

“It’s kind of random,” Hannah Wells said. “You’d expect it to be in a park or something. Not in an intersection.”

Wells is new to Colorado Springs. She had some challenges driving around the statue the first couple of times.

“At first it was tense, but I watched other cars in the intersection and figured it out,” Wells said.

Wells is not alone in wondering about the placement and the significance of the 17-foot structure.

“That’s William Jackson Palmer, the founder of Colorado Springs,” Matt Mayberry said.

Mayberry is the director of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum.

“To me, that’s a piece of public art and it’s my job to care for the city’s public art collection,” Mayberry said.

It’s is the most prominent of the 90 pieces the museum has. Two decades after Palmer’s death, the city raised enough money for the statue to finally go up in 1929. It hasn’t moved since.

“It was placed there by the vote of the people,” Mayberry said. “If residents want to move it, they’ll have to get it approved by a vote.”

It’s become one of the biggest controversies in the city. Mayberry said a movement to move the Palmer statue seems to come up every 10 years.

While it’s tricky trying to drive around the statue, walking can be difficult too. Erinn Schlortt is a student at Palmer High School, which sits on that very corner. She knows all too well about the risks crossing the intersection.

“We have to check for cars coming around out of nowhere because they don’t always look for us or care,” Schlortt said.

She may not know what’s coming around the corner, but attending the school that bears the founder’s name also means you have to know the statue’s history.

“I think it’s great having it in this intersection,” she said. “It’s an iconic picture of Colorado Springs.”

If you are curious about something in Colorado Springs or the surrounding area, send your Curious Colorado question to Scott Kilbury at skilbury@kxrm.com and we’ll work on getting an answer.

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