Visiting the McAllister House, the oldest house still standing in Colorado Springs

"It has really beat time. And it's very much the way that it looked in 1873 when it was built."
Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 10:45 AM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - At the corner of Cascade and St. Vrain sits the McAllister House, on what was once the outskirts of Colorado Springs.

The family who once lived within its walls 150 years ago played a big role in shaping what Colorado Springs would become.

And it all comes full circle later Friday, as the house receives a big honor from our current city leaders.

The house was once the home to Maj. Henry McAllister Jr. and his wife and three children. McAllister was a close friend of Gen. William Palmer -- a name Colorado Springs citizens know well. What many Springs residents may not know, is that Palmer, who traveled a lot, handpicked his good friend McAllister to develop what was then known as Fountain Colony.

“Eventually, all of the weight of the success of the colony was sitting on Maj. McAllister’s shoulders. And he’s trying to think of every idea that he can to get the economy stimulated and to get people here.” said Eric Metzger, the executive director for The McAllister House Museum.

It was under this roof that much of what we now know as Colorado Springs was birthed. Its significance to the city is why it’s being honored with a proclamation Friday afternoon.

Ahead of that proclamation, 11 News reporter Lindsey Grewe visited the museum to learn more about what the home means to the city.

“This house was the center of activity in town, both governance and economic activity, as well as social activity,” Metzger told Grewe during that tour.

“The charter of Colorado College would have been discussed in the library,” he continued. “There is a door that accesses in the back that was designed so that somebody could ride their horse up really quick, hitch up their horse, and sneak right in the back, sign some papers.”

The home-turned-museum still contain several of these document pertinent to the development of the city, including records showing the creation of Palmer Park. McAllister was keenly involved in these projects.

The lush grounds also contain the remnants of another idea McAllister had to draw people there.

“They constructed an experimental garden, and that was to contribute to the economy of Colorado Springs by showing people an example of what you could do if you moved to Colorado Springs and bought land. ... Apples are primarily what we’re talking about, strawberries and grapes, and what that is, is it was creating data, so when people move here, they could present that data of what date to put things in and when the crop was going to be harvested, how much money they would make,” Metzger said.

The museum also shows the every day life of the McAllisters, Quakers from Pennsylvania.

“It shows us how a Quaker family would have lived,” Metzger said.

Every room tells a story: the dining room, where friends such as Helen Hunt Jackson, the namesake of Helen Hunt Falls, would have joined the family.

“The territorial governor was here once, and during dinner someone saw some movement and pulled a curtain ... to their surprise, the house was surrounded by the Southern Ute tribe. ... They wanted to speak with the territorial governor, so they came to the McAllister House to say hello,” Metzger said.

Under its roof, McAllisters two daughters and son grew up to be prominent citizens. Henry McAllister III would become a well-known lawyer, taking on such clients such as Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, El Pomar and the Winfield Scott Stratton Estate. A newspaper the young McAllister wrote as an 8-year-old, documenting really early going ons in the Pikes Peak area, is still displayed in his old bedroom.

Daughters Mary and Matilda became teachers, educating several generations of children growing up in Colorado Springs. One of the schools they taught at still stands today: Palmer High School.

Matilda McAllister also made a name for herself by becoming the first woman in Colorado Springs to drive her own car.

Their bedroom can also be viewed in its original state, as can their parents’.

As other houses from the early years of Colorado Springs were lost to age, as the view from the home’s window transformed from rural to urban, 19th century to 21st, the McAllister House still stands, becoming a museum in 1961 and a member of the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

It is the oldest house still standing in Colorado Springs.

“It really has beat time. And it’s very much the way that it looked in 1873 when it was built,” McAllister said.

Friday, it’s receiving a special proclamation from the city it helped build. Metzger says he and the other associated with the museum are deeply honored.

“City Council is congratulating us on our 150th. It’s going to occur right here in the parlor. ... It’s a proclamation of the existence of the house. We want to get out to the public that we’re still here, and be an example of for historic preservation in Colorado Springs.”

Occurring in the very parlor where once long ago, saw Gen. Palmer and Maj. McAllister planning and dreaming about what Colorado Springs could be.

The McAllister Museum is open for tours Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. For more on times and pricing, click here.