History of a Landmark
The Union Printers Home, originally the Childs-Drexel Home for Union Printers, was established in 1891/1892 by the National Typographical Union. First proposed in an 1852 Union convention in New Orleans as a residential concept for retired members of the Typographical Union who were sickened from carbon-based ink used in the printing industry, the idea was rejected on five occasions. Finally, two Philadelphia printers donated $10,000 in 1886 “without condition or suggestion of any kind”, according to the Union Printers Home’s written history. Eighty acres of land east of downtown Colorado Springs was donated and the handsome facility with imposing stone façade and stunning mountain views was dedicated on May 12, 1892 with construction costs totaling $71,144.14.
The facility first housed 50 Union members. The home changed its name in 1902 and overtime has provided care for thousands of individuals in need. The Department Veterans Affairs contracted with the home in 2008 to provide residential care and programs for disabled veterans. During its lifetime, the Union Printers Home has provided hospice care, rehabilitation facilities, senior assisted living and long-term skilled nursing care. The campus anchors the intersection of Pikes Peak Avenue and Institute and has been long admired as an architectural, cultural and societal landmark this community has treasured for more than a century.
The “Castle on the Hill,” as it was initially known, was built on 80 acres of land donated by the Colorado Springs Board of Trade, outcompeting with Denver and Austin, Texas. The Richardsonian Romanesque style landmark, featuring regional limestone and sandstone, was designed by the Denver architectural firm of Mau and Mau. Subsequent additions, the gatehouse and entry gate were designed by prominent Colorado Springs architects Douglas & Hetherington. The main building contains individual rooms, a library, auditorium and cooking and dining facilities. Standing at 106’ tall, the central square tower marks the southwest corner of the initial building; the clock face was permanently set at 8:00 in recognition of the Union’s advocacy and achievement of a standardized 8-hour work day. East of the Castle, two identical Art Deco dormitories were opened in 1932 and 1937 for 100 occupants each; these were designed by architect G. M. Musick of Denver. In 1987, the ITU merged with the Communications Workers of America, who operated the facility as an assisted living center and nursing home until its sale in 2014. Since then, it has operated as a privately-owned nursing home.
Recent Change of Ownership
In 2014 the Union Printers Home was sold to a private corporation, marking the first time in 122 years that the facility had not been owned by the Communications Workers of America or its predecessors. Heart Living Centers of Colorado LLC, based in Salina, Kansas created by Kevin Jacobs of Oklahoma City, took over management of the 122-bed home in 2014.
In February 2020, the local press and media reported tragic events that resulted in the State of Colorado shutting down the facility, citing numerous violations. Members of the Historic Preservation Alliance of Colorado Springs and numerous concerned citizens have shared their concerns with us, asking what our organization might be able to do to help. We share your concerns regarding the future of this treasured historic complex from any number of threats, including deterioration from deferred maintenance, potential vandalism and even potential redevelopment.
The HPA Board of Directors is currently researching all resources available including community planning tools (HistoricCOS and PlanCOS), the City’s Historic Preservation Ordinance along with the City’s Historic Preservation Board, nomination to Colorado Preservation, Inc.’s list of Most Endangered Places, listing in the National Register of Historic Places, listing in the Colorado State Historic Properties list, and emergency State Historic Fund grants to name a few – all with the goal to bring protection to this prime property for the future.
WANT TO HELP? We need you. Join the HPA today online at www.hpasprings.org. Every membership dollar goes toward education and outreach.
Feel free to share your ideas and concerns with HPA Board President, Tim Boddington at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Updated 2.18.2020)
*Architectural description contributed by Tim Scanlon. Additional sources: Gazette articles and a variety of additional printed articles.