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The fight to save Acacia Park’s bandshell

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Locals are calling for the preservation of Acacia Park’s historic bandshell, which may be under threat of demolition. Follow the fight to save the bandshell at facebook.com/Acaciabandshell1914. - BRIAN TRYON
  • Brian Tryon
  • Locals are calling for the preservation of Acacia Park’s historic bandshell, which may be under threat of demolition. Follow the fight to save the bandshell at facebook.com/Acaciabandshell1914.

In my travels across the country as a musician, I started to become deeply aware of how in the past decade, much of the country was starting to look more and more homogenized — especially when you’re on tour and only staying in one place for a day or so. Most of the joy of traveling, in my opinion, comes from experiencing the unique atmosphere and historical significance in a new place, but this seems to have become more and more understated as time marches on.

I have my own suspicions for why this is occurring en masse, but rather than rambling on about the commodification of history and putting our entire readership to sleep, I’ll tell you about an opportunity for the city of Colorado Springs to preserve a piece of its own local and musical history.

Local musician Chuck Snow has spearheaded an effort to preserve the Acacia Park bandshell, outlining concerns with the verbiage of the city’s Downtown Historic Parks Master Plan. Snow organized both a Facebook page, “Save the 1914 Acacia Park Bandshell,” and a petition on change.org, and encourages concerned locals to support both. As of this writing, the petition has accumulated over 2,200 signatures in just three days (over 4,500 by May 26), with many signees mentioning the 106-year-old bandshell’s historical and aesthetic value, as well as its personal significance to many locals.

Per the Downtown Historic Parks Master Plan, viewable at coloradosprings.gov, the city is calling for a “future feasibility study of the bandshell to determine whether renovation or replacement makes the most sense.”
The plan continues, “Many citizens support a new open air stage with improved lighting, sound, and open lines of sight as a new space to support events.”

“I just don’t like the language they are using when it comes to the bandshell,” says musician Brian Elyo. “To ‘study the feasibility’ of it sounds, to me, like they will tear it down if given any reason to. And since we found out the city has already pursued protecting it with historic status, and have not, is even more disconcerting. The [Master Plan] illustrating alternative ideas means that protecting it is even further from their priority.”



Snow’s petition also argues that a more “modern” structure “would not be suitable for the historic nature of Colorado Springs’ first park.”

Indeed, Acacia Park’s roots extend back to the Colorado Springs Company and Gen. William Jackson Palmer; the bandshell was erected not long after his passing. The block was reserved as a public park in 1871 and initially landscaped by John Blair, who had previously laid out Chicago’s Humboldt Park while serving as that city’s superintendent of public parks.

Acacia Park featured a frame bandstand by 1888, and the bandshell was erected in 1914, designed by local architect Thomas P. Barber. An extension was built in 1939, and in 1940 a concrete dance floor was installed, accommodating 2,500 people at the first square dance held there.

Aside from signing the petition, Snow and Elyo suggest that locals concerned with preserving the park’s historic bandshell should contact City Council and the parks department, and make sure that they understand that locals want to see the bandshell be restored and functional.

“Now, that can have a lot of different meanings, too,” says Elyo, “But none of those mean ‘tear it down.’ The bandshell has issues, but they can all be resolved and designed for. We’re tired of losing historic structures on whims. 106 years old. Our beef isn’t with the entire Master Plan, just keep the bandshell!”

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