Anyone driving along Interstate 25 toward the Palmer Divide is probably familiar with the giant star seasonally illuminating Colorado’s foothills. There is, of course, a story behind that star — one of many that members of the Palmer Lake Historical Society would love to share.
The historical society, which is participating for the first time in the Give! Campaign, hosts events and activities “that promote, protect, and preserve local history,” and operate the town’s only museum.
And while the society takes great pride in Palmer Lake, their focus extends beyond the small burg alone. History is gathered from all along northern El Paso County, according to PLHS Board President Tom Baker and Secretary and incoming president Michele Lawrie-Munro.
The organization has been around since October 1956, when it was chartered as an educational nonprofit.
“The mission remains pretty close to the original charter,” Baker said. “The focus is on community engagement, education, historical — mostly about the community but more generally about the Palmer Divide region, east toward Table Rock, south toward the [Air Force Academy]. The museum collection is largely focused around that community.”
The historical society also hosts programs, community get-togethers and a potluck for its annual membership meeting.
“In the summer we do an ice cream social with music, ice cream and pies on Father’s Day on the [town] green,” Baker said.
Ten years ago, the historical society resurrected Palmer Lake’s Rocky Mountain Chautauqua — the oldest Chautauqua west of the Mississippi River, Baker said — and continues to sponsor the annual summertime event.
“In the 19th century, there was a cultural and religious educational focus,” he said. “It started on the East Coast … and in , they held the first one here.”
According to Lawrie-Munro, the society has an annual budget of $22,000 and any money raised through Give! would go toward reproducing old publications, updating the PLHS website and establishing a landmark program that would provide historical information about certain areas in the Tri-Lakes region.
Lawrie-Munro said a website upgrade would allow the museum to participate in ecommerce.
“A lot of our budget goes toward museum sustainment,” Baker said. “It’s also a minor revenue center. We sell items, some publications from the historical society, some cards.”
The museum is currently exhibiting World War I-themed items that mark the recent armistice centennial.
Annual memberships cost $15 for an individual and $20 for a family. PLHS currently has about 150 memberships (30 of which are from outside the region) and many of those are families.
“Programs are free to everybody, but members get additional mailings and information, and first choice on some items,” Baker said, adding the museum is also free to visit.
The historical society has made it its objective to grow in the coming year.
“We hope our participation in the Give! Campaign — we hope generous donors will help us with funding — but we also feel like this is a good opportunity to get the word out. … There are probably a lot of readers who don’t know about us up here.”
Baker has lived in the region since 1991. His favorite story?
“The star, of course,” he said. “But I also loved learning about the Yule Log Hunt tradition.”
As the main feature of the annual event, now in its 85th year, a log with a ribbon is hidden somewhere in Palmer Lake and participants search for it. The finder, perched atop the log, is dragged back to town hall and wassail is served.
“That’s really cool the community has the pride and the commitment to keep the tradition alive,” Baker said.
As for that star story?
Well, Baker invites those interested in learning more to visit the Palmer Lake Historical Society.
Donate through Dec. 31 to any of our 93 nonprofits at indygive.com.