Return to Blog

Celebrating 80 Years - “No place so democratic”, 1967, The Pikes Peak Library District and Penrose Library

Tags: #Celebrating80Years

pen lib 1 93.jpg
Construction circa 1966


#Celebrating80Years: 2017 marked 80 years of working with Colorado’s nonprofits as they seek to strengthen their communities. Throughout 2018, we will be looking back on this history of the outstanding organizations and the people the Trustees have had the opportunity to support. On the blog you will find a history of the Foundation’s grant making and a representative organization from every year since our founding in 1937.


“Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest.” –Lady Bird Johnson

Libraries have evolved to become central components of thriving communities, and El Paso County is fortunate to be served by the Pikes Peak Library District and its 14 locations, online resources, and mobile library service. In 1967, El Pomar demonstrated its support for libraries and the resources they provide with a grant toward the construction of the Penrose Public Library in downtown Colorado Springs.



new penrose lib 2.jpg
Circa 1970

Grantee Spotlight:  Penrose Library

The history of the Pikes Peak Library District began with the founding of Colorado Springs, when in 1871 a group in the town decided to create a reading room for young men—the “Fountain Society of Natural Science.” Additional book collections were formed throughout the city in the late nineteenth century, including the Colorado Springs Social Union (later renamed the Colorado Springs Free Library and Reading Room Association or CSFLRRA), and by 1901, the organization had collected a library containing almost 7,000 volumes.

In 1903, Andrew Carnegie provided funding to build the first public library in Colorado Springs. After the plans were approved, the board of CSFLRRA voted to sell all of its holdings to the new public library for $1, and the library was dedicated in March of 1905. As Colorado Springs grew and annexed Colorado City, new libraries were built and a bookmobile service was added in 1954. The regional library district (Pikes Peak Library District) was created by voters in 1962.

By this point, the growth of the city had begun to burden and overcrowd the limited resources of the Carnegie and West End libraries. In response, in 1966 and 1967, El Pomar provided more than $1.4 million to the City of Colorado Springs toward the purchase of land and the construction of the Penrose Library. The new location was built on the west side of downtown Colorado Springs on North Cascade Avenue.

new pen lib 3.jpg
Circa 1968

The Pikes Peak Library District has continued to expand its offerings and resources ever since, and was even among the first public library systems in the country to provide home computer users access to its library catalog and databases. Today, it continues to “provide resources and opportunities that impact individual lives and build community” at its 14 locations and through its online resources and mobile library service.


El Pomar in 1967:

The Foundation experienced a significant increase in grant making and provided more than $2.8 million in 1967—the equivalent of more than $21 million today. In addition to funding for the Penrose Public Library, other major grants included support for a research building at Penrose Hospital, an aerospace education center at the United States Air Force Academy, and capital improvements at the Colorado Springs School.


Images by Stewarts Commercial Photographers. Courtesy of Special Collections, Pikes Peak Library District: 013-707, 013-2000, 013-10889

Spotlight by Corey Baron