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We Are Pueblo

91 Years Later: The Flood of ’21



By Wade Broadhead
The Flood of 1921 was Pueblo’s defining tragedy, like the fire in Chicago or the Earthquake in San Francisco. It was a resonate event whose implications have rippled through Pueblo’s history to the current day. Our town’s development can be easily split into pre- and post-flood periods. In the wake of a horrible 1918 pandemic, WWI, a severe 1920 recession and angst over immigration, the 1920s looked brighter for Pueblo; it couldn’t be much worse than what the city had recently experienced. Union Avenue, the commercial corridor, was giving way to Main Street, the Roaring Commercial Canyon. The world was Pueblo’s oyster and better days were ahead.

Then on June 3, 1921, the sirens rang out and people fled to higher ground – though many did not, believing the recently completed taller levee would save them. We know now it did not and over 100 people died.

Much has been written about the flood, but little about its impact on the built environment. Visitors can see the high-water mark (14 feet in some places downtown) on the Union Depot and what was then a newly-built City Hall. However, many do not know that the flood wiped out the low-lying Grove neighborhood, a tight ethnic enclave with three different nationality churches within a couple of blocks.

The flood displaced not only survivors but also their homes. Humanity (as well as its built environment) was much more mobile in 1920. The Russian Orthodox Church steeple, which is framed in the famous photo lying in the center of the street in the Grove, moved up to high ground in Bessemer where it sits today. There are many reports of Italians moving their mud-stained shotgun homes up to Goat Hill. The Slavic community relocated en masse to what is now know as Eilers Heights off of Mesa Avenue. There are other reports of worker housing being moved to the East Side after the flood.

Union Avenue was devastated and turned toward light industrial uses, some of which are being phased out today. Pictures of the district during the depression in the 1930s show a struggling people residing in buildings that are literally crumbling around them, ruined from the flood. It’s a testament to Pueblo’s perseverance that Union Avenue was rehabilitated at all after the flood and the decades of neglect the devastation wrought on the district.

The flood’s legacy can be seen in our built environment, and it can be viewed in our subterranean environment. During tours of the Solar Roast Block on Main Street and the McLaughlin Block on Union, one can still see a post-flood mud line on the basement walls. As rivers cut their paths through the natural environment, they can also carve wounds in our built environment that can take a hundred years to fully heal.

For more information about the flood, visit the Pueblo County Historical Society Library where many of the original records of the flood are housed.

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We Are Pueblo

Pleasure Discing



As a Pueblo native and former restless youth, I have vivid memories of hours spent during the late fall craving the long days of the recently passed summer, of winter mornings and melting frost-covered lawns signaling that spring was nearly within reach, and of spring afternoons spent in class eager to find myself anywhere other than school and out free in the Southern Colorado crispness. School responsibilities aside, I still find myself unable to abstain from my favorite outdoor pursuit, disc golf at Pueblo City Park.
Located throughout the northwest section of Pueblo’s City Park, found at 800 Goodnight Avenue, 81005, the City Park Disc Golf Course offers more than just 18 holes of good-natured and challenging recreation.

Pueblo’s City Park Disc Golf Course has been recognized statewide as a ‘well thought-out parks and recreation project’ by the Colorado Lottery. It even received the Colorado Lottery Starburst award in 1999. The award is funding accrued via the lottery games that take place in the state. The winning projects, selected from a list of nominations, are reviewed by Lottery Commissioners. The Commissioners decide upon a winning project by appraising the creativity of the project, economic and social impact within the surrounding community and whether the project achieves its goal.

City Park Disc Golf Course boasts of more than statewide recognition. Our city is home to the third oldest disc golf course in the nation, established in 1978. The Pueblo City Park Disc Golf Course is also a member of the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA), acknowledged internationally throughout the domain of disc golf. Along with being a member of the PDGA, our course has hosted the Colorado Disc Sports Association’s (CDSA) championships. The CDSA is a non-profit organization that encourages participation in disc sports in Colorado. The CDSA is proud to be celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2012.

It’s not solely honors and awards that separate Pueblo’s frisbee golf course at City Park from the drum. The course’s clout arises from the amenities that can be found on site. The course claims two holes over 400 feet in length, four holes between 300-400 feet long and twelve holes under 300 feet.

8Furthermore, all holes, except #3 and #12, have dual concrete tees made purposefully for the use of both amateurs and those who need a bit more of a challenge. The course in total measures a length of 4,750-6,060 feet, varying upon your tee choice, which makes for healthy exercise if you are looking for a way out of the monotony of simple neighborhood walks.

Frequenters of the course, non-native to Pueblo, express, “The park is a well-manicured, quality city park with grass that plays immaculately and large amounts of trees that give you a much needed break from the hot Pueblo sun.” Also, it is pointed out that the “abundance of trees in the park, as well as the long and short distance variations of the holes, makes for high a level of technicality and toughness on most holes.” That said, the City Park terrain provides numerous examples of why our course is an obvious top contender when it comes to tournament locations in Colorado.

The month of May remains memorable to me as the seasonal sign to dig out my disc and make the short trip to City Park for a round of disc golf. But with such a beautiful course at our disposal, it becomes a communal responsibility to maintain the course and conserve its form for both seasoned patrons and the future generation of youth killing time in the park.

by Charles Madrid

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Arts & Culture

A Creative Family’s Creative Life: an Interview with Ken Williams



PULP: You know the drill: Where are you from and how did you end up in Pueblo?
Ken Williams: I’m from Duquesne, Pennsylvania, in the Monongahela valley, which is like Pueblo in that it is a steel town with lots of ethnic diversity. I’ve always been comfortable here. I came here to go to college – in high school, I spent summers on a farm south of Limon, and I fell in love with the west. I met my wife, Judith, on the first day of school.

After I finished my degree in fine arts, with an emphasis in sculpture, I started my first studio, west of City Park, on Thatcher. Shortly after that, the Arts Center opened and I worked there for nine years as the first artist-in-residence. During that time, I had established my studio at this location, 13th and Erie [at Summit Brick]. I built my kiln here in 1978.

I’m the face on this business, but it’s really my wife, Judith, and our children and me.

PULP: Tell me about the fountain in the Sister City Plaza.

K.W.: That was the very first brick sculpture that I was involved with. I was involved with another artist named Jim Callahan. He and I were both working at the library, back in 1970. He had already worked with a local architect and he talked to me about doing something in clay. We made a carving and we showed it to one of the architects on the project and he said, “That looks good, that’s what we want.” So that was really the first introduction, which made me get into this. People have been making brick sculpture since 700 BC; it’s a very old technique.

PULP: …and the sound barrier wall, near the University?

K.W.: The sound barrier wall was really Judith’s concept. She came up with the original idea, how it should look and how we could do it. It’s the biggest thing we’ve done in the terms of scale. It’s over a mile long. We built [the forms] out of plywood, pine, styrofoam and stucco, like making a stage set. Those were then sent to a company in California, which made fiberglass molds. The contractor used those molds to build the sound barrier wall out of poured concrete.

PULP: What inspires your designs?

K.W.: A lot of this work, because it’s related to construction, has to be designed so that it is constructible, on budget, economical, and you can actually make it happen. The design comes from experience, primarily. I’m very much dependent on my wife, Judith, who has the final say – she has an innate sense of design. I started out studying to be a geologist. Meeting her and being influenced by her and being encouraged by her – I ended up here.

PULP: Do you prefer large works or smaller?

K.W.: I don’t have a preference; I work on coffee mugs, which are small, and I enjoy that. I like bigger things. They all involve personal expression. The challenge of the big projects – they are much more stressful. There’s usually a deadline, and the bigger the project the more things can go wrong – a budget, if I have to have subcontractors – all that adds to something much more complicated than throwing a pot. So it’s a different kind of challenge in that respect.

PULP: Is there any one of your works that you consider your best?

K.W.: I did a project at Texas Tech University in Amarillo. It was completed in January of 2010, and it’s a big project, which is exciting. It was something that Judith and I had been playing around with for a long time. A lot of our brick sculptures are part of buildings, but this is a free-standing piece. We thought it would be a good idea for involving the students with the campus, they can be a part of it, they can sit on it, they can walk through it. Frankly, I was a little bit frightened. My daughter, Brooke, encouraged me. We were one of three finalists, and we went down there to present the idea and lo and behold we got the job!

It was great because I was able to employ other artists, and my whole family was working on it. We used a mason from Pueblo who went down there and installed parts of it. When I was finished and it was all landscaped, I loved it.

It represents the hoodoos, geological formations in the Palo Duro canyon. These are differential erosion features, columns of layered clays providing colors. They call them the hoodoos. It provided the inspiration for this piece. It’s columnar, but it also suggests something almost classical – columns – like at the courthouse. So, it has that relationship to the area. Then we brought in other imagery that’s in the pavement, showing the Charles Goodnight brand on some cattle running along. We have windmills; we have DNA strands – it’s a medical school – so we have other imagery, but it’s mainly these vertical elements.

By Rosemary Thomas

PULP: How long have you been working with clay?

K.W.: Over 40 years. I started in college. I went to meet my wife for lunch, and she was in the pottery studio, and a guy was in there throwing a pot. I said to Judith, “That looks like fun. I’d like to try it.” I was so into it, I was actually breaking into the pottery studio at night so that I could make pots! I had to make a decision: Am I going to be a geologist, or am I going to make pots for the rest of my life? I decided to make pots. I had to get a degree in the fine arts, so it was more than just pottery. You have to do painting, drawing, printmaking. I liked all of those things.

PULP: All of this clay is mined here?

K.W.: Yes. The clay pit is on Hudson [at Summit Brick].

PULP: (Brooke was making sconces during our visit.)

K.W.: Brooke and I are sidekicks; we work side by side all the time. When she was little, Brooke sat in the car and read; she thought it was too dirty in the studio. [Laughs] She’s my computer connection. She searches for and applies for big projects. Brooke adds, “I didn’t like it when I was little. And I was NOT going to be a part of it. Then one day, I came back.”

PULP: What is your most distant project?

K.W.: Puebla Mexico. It was a gift from our city to theirs, related to the sister city sculpture. We’ve constructed projects in Connecticut and New York and other far-away states. The way we do it is we stack the unfired bricks, which are made by Summit Brick, we carve it, we disassemble it, and number all of the bricks. Next, we fire it. We reassemble and glaze and fire again, and then ship. I install, or I hire a mason to do the installation. So, that’s how we proceed.

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Arts & Culture

No Laughing Matter



Someone once said, “Records are made to be broken.” If you ask Pueblo resident Stephen Smith, a professional clown and juggler of 13 years, he might tell you some records have yet to be set. That is exactly what the 36 year-old Atlanta native intends to do on April 6th when he attempts to set a world record by standing/walking on a 48-inch giant plastic ball known as a Walking Globe for 24 hours straight.

The idea came to him in September 2011 while working an event on the Walking Globe. A passerby asked him what was the longest he had ever stood and juggled on the ball? “‘Twelve hours,’ I told him,” remembers Smith. “Wouldn’t it be cool if you could do 24?” was the response, and so an idea was born.

“When you hear about all of the negative stuff going on in the world and the economy, you hear people say we will never recover from this. It makes me think now is the perfect time for something like this. A simple thing can change the world.”

Stephen has teamed up with Fun Yogurt and 5th & Main Espresso Bar to raise money for the Pueblo Children’s Chorale during the event. Training for the event four to eight hours a day in various locations around the city, Stephen uses heavy exertion and big movements to simulate what the grueling twenty-four hours might be like.

“The most common question people ask is, ‘How do you plan on going to the restroom?’ I will use a curtain and I have been practicing by sipping water to limit how much I need to go. Hopefully I won’t have to go number two, but if I do it is going to happen on that ball.”

The event coincides on April 6th with the First Friday Art Walk and will end on Saturday the 7th. “I am shooting for 30 hours, but my goal is 24.” The record will be recorded by Record Setter, an online record keeping site that encourages individuals to set world records. “24 hours is a monumental task. This is something that provides entertainment from the ages of two to 92. We want people to come out and experience Pueblo…to experience the magic of Pueblo.”

by John Cooper

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