Let’s face it: We’re the Rodney Dangerfield of Colorado cities — no respect, no respect!
Disdained by Denver, bashed by Boulder, pushed around by Pueblo, violated by Vail and avoided by Aspen.
Alliteration aside, it’s easy for us to feel dejected, rejected and disrespected.
Take the Denver-based Colorado Business Hall of Fame.
Of the 124 laureates who have been inducted into the hall, nine are from Colorado Springs. The nine so honored include the Loo family (Miriam, Orin, Dusty and Gary), Bill Hybl, Russell Tutt, Thayer Tutt, Spencer Penrose and Gen. William Jackson Palmer. They’re all worthy inductees, but c’mon — does this mean that only nine individuals from the Pikes Peak region are worthy of enshrinement in the hall?
It means that folks in Denver honor their own and pay scant attention to their country cousins. It means that we need our own Business Hall of Fame.
Our city was founded and built by entrepreneurs — men and women who welcomed risk, adventure and opportunity. Penrose and Palmer might have led the way, but dozens of others made significant and lasting contributions to the city.
They deserve to be honored and we’re the ones to do it. As the old saying goes, “She who tooteth not her own horn, the same shall not be tooted.”
So let’s get to work and create our own Colorado Springs Business Hall of Fame.
It’ll be easy, fun and give us an excuse to hold an annual party. More importantly, it’s a way of honoring our community and those individuals, living and dead, who helped build it.
Back in the 1970s the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce initiated the worthy annual tradition of honoring the “Business Citizen of the Year,” and later introduced a “Founders Award” for lifetime achievement.
Those records (which, unfortunately, aren’t currently available on the Regional Business Alliance website) will be invaluable in determining Hall of Fame inductees who made their mark in the relatively recent past.
It’ll also be fascinating to re-examine the historical record. Palmer, Penrose and Winfield Scott Stratton were towering figures, but they weren’t alone.
There is another man who was a giant in American business, whose career included Great Lakes steamers, iron ore, steel, railroads, land development and Colorado mines.
You’ve probably never heard his name. Born poor in Ontario in 1839, Hagerman made a fortune in various business ventures in the Midwest before moving to Colorado Springs in 1884. His doctor advised the move, warning him that he risked an early demise if he didn’t slow down.
Hagerman’s idea of slowing down was, as his son Percy wrote decades later, “to plunge into one of the most difficult enterprises which had ever been undertaken in Colorado.”
He financed and built the Colorado Midland Railway from Colorado Springs to Leadville, Glenwood Springs and Aspen. Not coincidentally, he also acquired and developed mining properties that would be served by his line.
He sold the line at a profit in 1890 and used some of the proceeds to consolidate and gain control of several promising claims in Aspen.
Hagerman’s $50,000 initial investment in the Mollie Gibson mine had almost been exhausted by March 1891. He was ready to put up more capital when his luck turned.
“Bonanza silver ore was struck,” Percy Hagerman wrote. “Before the end of the year, the company [had banked] more than $1.5 million. It was probably the richest silver ore ever shipped in quantity from any mine in the United States.”
The silver market subsequently collapsed, so Hagerman turned his attention to Cripple Creek, organizing and funding the extremely profitable Isabella Gold Mining Company.
After selling the Isabella in 1896, Hagerman lost millions in a New Mexico land venture — but that’s another story. His elaborate stone mansion on the 600 block of North Cascade Avenue still stands, now converted to apartments.
Hagerman is just one of dozens who deserve to be honored — and we deserve the opportunity to honor them in an annual banquet, complete with both good food and good drinks.
As well as inducting giants from the past, we could honor our city’s living legends as well.
Some suggestions: Steve Schuck, Steve Bach, Laura Muir, David Sunderland, Lou Mellini, Kathy Loo, Perry Sanders, Dave Lux and David Jenkins. That’s just a start. We could add more.
Does anyone disagree? Let’s do it — even if it’s just a website, a downtown bar crawl and a commemorative IPA. I’ll happily lift a glass to J.J. Hagerman’s silver and gold.