The Visits – A snapshot of Presidential visits to Colorado
by Kristin Otts
Valentine’s Day is probably the saddest and most hated holiday in the history of sad and hateful holidays. For the romantically unattached, February the 14th is a nagging reminder that the night will be spent eating piles of chocolate and, for the brave, single soul, maybe taking in a solo movie sitting at the back of the theater. For those “in a relationship,” as Facebook would say, Valentine’s Day is a reminder that you’ve been a lousy boyfriend/girlfriend for the last year and now is the time to pour all your past failures into one really, really good day. No pressure.
That’s why I’m not writing about Valentine’s Day. You can all take a deep breath now.
No. Instead of writing about a hateful holiday, this article is dedicated to a holiday that some people may forget (unless those people have the day off). I am writing about Presidents’ Day–not because I am one of those lucky employees who doesn’t work on Presidents’ Day but because Colorado has a fascinating history with its Commanders-in-Chief.
The Obama State
Before we begin this roll call, let me clear up one thing: our current President seems to love Colorado more than any of the Presidents before him. Obama has spent a total of sixteen days in our Centennial State. So–whatever you think of our fearless leader–a round of applause for good old Barack!
Calling All 90s Kids
The past decade has been a throwback to the nineties, as Colorado was visited by both the Bush and Clinton families several times. President George W. Bush was most recently in Denver in 2011, discussing education with Get Smart Schools and Denver’s mayor Michael Hancock. Later in the year, George Jr. returned to Ridgway for his niece Lauren’s wedding.
President Bill Clinton came to Colorado with Michelle Obama in 2010 to campaign for Senator Michael Bennet. He returned to Denver two years later to participate in a conference at the Bellco Theatre in December of 2012.
This is not an Eagles’ song; this is actually a very famous hotel in Glenwood Springs. Opened in 1893, the hotel catered to the rich and famous of the day, with fountains, waterfalls, and an enormous pool where guests could fish for trout. Later, during the 1920s, the hotel became something of a hideout for local gangsters.
Hotel Colorado also played host to many former US Presidents (and several ghosts–but that’s another article for another day). Most famously, Theodore Roosevelt stayed at the hotel in 1905 for three weeks, during a hunting trip. Legend has it that this hotel is where the America’s favorite toy, the teddy bear, was named after our 26th President. When Roosevelt killed a bear on his hunting expedition, his daughter christened it Teddy. The name later became attributed to a stuffed toy the hotel maids had made for Roosevelt; and so the teddy bear was born.
In 1909, President William Taft visited the hotel, but declined use of the hot springs because “I’ve found it’s much better for a man of my size not to bathe in public.”
1939 saw President Herbert Hoover visit for just an afternoon, as he held a luncheon in the courtyard.
Pueblo Almost Kills President Wilson
Okay, this sub-heading is not true. Pueblo did not kill Woodrow Wilson. But, he did suffer a stroke as a result of his trip to the city. After his time in Paris for the Peace Conference in 1919, he returned to the US for a grueling 8,000-mile tour in 22 days. The tour was meant to garner support for both the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations, which Wilson created earlier in the year. The stress of the cross-country trip finally caused Wilson to collapse in exhaustion in Pueblo on September 25th. He made it back to Washington just before suffering a near-fatal stroke on October 2nd.
Wilson recovered from the stroke, but died just five years later in 1924.
When Franklin Delano Roosevelt came to Pueblo in 1936, it was the first time in twenty years that a President had visited Pueblo. He spoke to the city about national unity, addressing some of the issues in Pueblo at the time, including the recent desolation caused by the 1921 flood, and how state and city issues could be solved by a strong and unified democracy. He also visited the Royal Gorge before returning to Washington.
John F. Kennedy visited Colorado several times–first Denver, in 1960, to campaign for his election and Pueblo in 1962, to celebrate the Fryingpan-Arkansas Reclamation Project. This huge endeavor redirected water from the Western Slope to the Colorado Springs and Pueblo areas. Although the project was, and is, highly controversial, President Kennedy praised the project, claiming that the country would continue to need such projects in order to provide for the growing population of America.
Well, there you have it. A collection of Colorado’s presidential visits. You can thank me later, if you like, for not making you suffer through a collection of the world’s worst valentines or a quiz about how to find love.
All photos courtesy the Pueblo County Historical Society.