Fannie Mae Duncan

“Driving Home” photo courtesy of Pikes Peak Library Special Collections

Fannie Mae Duncan (1918-2005) was a larger-than-life character who chose to live in the Middle Shooks Run area at 615 N. Corona. She moved to Colorado Springs in 1933 as a teenager with her siblings and their recently widowed mother. Duncan attended North Middle School and graduated from Colorado Springs High School (later Palmer High School). Duncan worked hard in the hospitality industry and eventually opened the locally famous Cotton Club, an integrated night club located on Colorado Avenue across the street from the Antlers Hotel. She and her family lived on the near westside at 702 Pine Street until she found a new house.

Duncan’s new home had been built in 1891 by Dr. James A. Hart at the corner of Nevada Avenue and Dale Street. Fannie Mae rescued the mansion from being torn down and moved it to two vacant lots at 615 N. Corona Street. With forty-three rooms and over 8,000 square feet, the house was so big it had to be cut into three sections to be moved. Duncan was excited to find the house that would be large enough to offer overnight housing to her club’s entertainers who had trouble finding overnight accommodations.

The vacant lots Duncan bought on Corona were in the “right neighborhood” according to Colorado Springs’ unspoken rules. She wrote in her autobiography, “For some reason it was okay for blacks and whites to live beside each other on certain streets but not on others. I don’t think the city was specifically zoned that way, but some things were simply understood.”

Fannie Mae Duncan

Urban renewal was the downfall of her nightclub on Colorado Avenue. In 1975 the property was taken “by right of eminent domain.” After 28 years, the club that had advertised “Everybody Welcome” was closed and the building was torn down.

Eventually, Duncan turned over her mansion on Corona to Bethhaven for use as a group home and moved to Denver to live with her sister. She was posthumously inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame in 2012. Her fascinating story is told in “Everybody Welcome, A Memoir of Fannie Mae Duncan and the Cotton Club” by Fannie Mae Duncan with Kathleen F. Esmiol (published by Chiaroscuro Press, 2013) which includes a wealth of details and photos of Duncan’s life and family in Colorado Springs.

Middle Shooks Run Neighborhood in the 1940s

Some of us have a hard time imagining trains steaming through the middle of our neighborhood. Not so for Shirley Bonds who lived on N. Prospect Street at Monument since 1942. She was a native of Colorado Springs and moved to North Prospect from Cache La Poudre Street when she was 18 years old. Shirley recalled being awakened by the clanging of milk cans being dropped off and picked up at Sol’s Dairy at 5 o’clock in the morning; and she was quite knowledgeable about the history of the neighborhood.

“AT&SF train passes through Shooks Run neighborhood” photo by Shirley Bonds

Shirley photographed the Atchison,Topeka, and Santa Fe steam engine and train passing through the North 600 block of Middle Shooks Run neighborhood during the 1940’s and the old Franklin Street neighborhood that was replaced by the Franklin Square Townhomes and North Shooks Run Park during Urban Renewal in the 1970’s.

“Sol’s Dairy” by Louise Conner

For many years, in the 600 block of North Prospect Street there was a faded sign painted on the side of a small building that read “Sol’s Dairy.” Originally, Sam Rollins started the business in 1923 and called it Highland View Dairy.

Sol’s Dairy 1953, photo courtesy of Pikes Peak Library District Special Collections

Decades later, Sam’s daughter Mary told Ruth Hadsall in an interview printed in Middle Shooks Run Neighborhood Association newsletter (Fall 1990) that farmers from surrounding farms brought in the milk which was processed at the dairy. Sam delivered the milk around the neighborhood in a pickup truck until he died of a burst appendix in 1929. Later, Mary’s mother Elizabeth rented out the dairy to Sol Cox, and his name stayed on the small building long after the dairy business ended in the 1950s.

Mary Rollins was born near Black Forest to Samuel and Elizabeth Rollins on December 1, 1915. She attended St Mary’s High School and graduated in 1934. Mary worked for the telephone company before marrying Claude Ford in 1941. Mary and Claude had two sons, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Mary and Claude lived at 632 N. Prospect next to the dairy building for many years. An active member of St. Mary’s Cathedral, Mary gave many volunteer hours to the cathedral. She also catered and served many wedding receptions and bank luncheons. Claude died in 1992 and Mary died at the age of 95 on January 1, 2011.

The old dairy building was torn down in January 2012. Members of MSRNA took possession of the sign painted on a gable of the building. Work was done to preserve the sign and the Sol’s Dairy gable is now displayed at the xeriscaped garden at the corner of Willamette and El Paso Streets. A new home has been built at the old address, occupied by a new family.

What’s Time to a Tree? (Or, The Story of Noah’s Bed) by David Ryan

Old trees don’t give up their secrets easily. But an old willow along the banks of downtown’s little creek, Shooks Run, has a particularly poignant story to tell. This old tree swallowed a bed (headboard, footboard, springs and all) more than one hundred years ago. Today, the rusted remnants of that bed can be found by anyone willing to walk along the banks of Shooks Run between Willamette Street and the Dale Street footbridge.

On July 25, 1885 an unusually violent torrent let loose on the land of H. T. Clark, who lived at the base of Austin Bluffs. At 9:00 p.m. the rain was so heavy, it filled a 16-inch-deep tub in an hour. The water swept through his ranch, killing two horses and some cattle. The wall of water then careened down the creek towards Colorado Springs.

Meanwhile, a Mr. B.A.P. Eaton, superintendent of El Paso County schools, and his wife Margaret had just retired to bed. Known as “alphabet soup Eaton” by the students in the northern part of the district, the kids in the Cheyenne schools simply called him “Bap.” The couple lived at Wahsatch and Yampa in a house that was then at the northeastern edge of town. About 10 o’clock p.m. Eaton heard a roaring sound just north of his house. Peering out the window he witnessed a wall of water illuminated by lightning flashes come barreling in from the north.

The flood swept away the chicken coop and barn, and began swirling around the house. Mr. Eaton dressed quickly as the house was raised off its foundation and began to move in a southeasterly direction towards the low-lying Shooks Run. It struck the northeast corner of Mr. North’s carpenter shop, tearing off the end and the side and continued on.

By this time the man of the former house (or is that the other way around?) knew that they must swim for it. He jumped out the front door into waist-deep water. His wife refused and threw herself on to a bed near the door.

By the time Benjamin Eaton had regained his footing, the house with his wife had floated out of sight and–according to the testimony of eyewitnesses–began to turn and roll over by the time it reached Shooks Run near the present-day Dale Street footbridge. Joseph Dozier said the house struck the Bijou Street Bridge.

Meanwhile Eaton had made his way to a spring wagon that stood on higher ground and was trapped against a post. He was rescued by dairyman Melvin M. Sinton, who threw him a rope from horseback and pulled him to safety. The search for Mrs. Eaton continued through the night and the next day, without success.

The flood destroyed livestock and produce of every farmer, rancher and dairyman who lived or had lands along Shooks Run. Parts of buggies, carriages and wagons were found embedded in the creek bank. A husk mattress that may have been the Eaton’s was found in Col. DeLa Vergne’s oat field in Ivywild, south of Fountain creek.

The body of Mrs. Eaton was found 13 days after the great flood in a pile of driftwood and debris that had been caught on a barbed wire fence on the old Treadwell ranch about two miles south of the city limits.

Whether the old bed in the Shooks Run willow belonged to the Eatons, no one knows for sure. One thing that is certain is that by the time someone tried to remove the bedframe from the tree, the fast growing willow had begun to surround it.

The Shook Brothers:
History from the landmark boulder located in Shooks Run Park

In 1865 two young Iowans, Peter and Denton Shook, settled on 80 acres of land around the confluence of Shooks Run and Monument Creek to ranch cattle. They were among the area’s earliest pioneers. Soon other early settlers began calling the creek Shooks Run. By a century later, the neighborhood identified itself as Shooks Run.

“Hillside” the Meserve home, located corner of Willamette & El Paso, ca. 1882, photo courtesy Pikes Peak Library District, Special Collections

A mile north of the Shook brothers’ ranch, Melvin Sinton, a new settler from Ithaca, New York, established a dairy in 1880 south of Willamette and east of Corona. During that decade he and his brother George ran cows on the east side of the area into a new location on South El Paso Street.

The earliest cottonwoods planted in the Shooks Run area were part of city founder General Palmer’s pioneering forestation efforts.