One of three major drainage basins converging in Manitou, Ruxton Creek flowing out of Englemann Canyon was named after George Fredrick Augustus Ruxton. From England, Ruxton was an early explorer of the American Southwest representing british diplomatic and commercial interests. He passed through Manitou in the spring of 1847 writing extensively about his adventurers to the area.
Advertised as “The Only Chalybeate Springs in the West” iron-rich waters emitting from the mineral springs along upper Ruxton Creek became known as “The Strongest of Tonics”. The first considerable construction project began in 1889 along upper Ruxton with the building of the Manitou & Pikes Peak Cog Railway, reaching the summit of Pikes Peak in 1891. Then in 1895 an electric trolley line was built from Manitou Avenue to the Cog Railway depot. Joseph G. Heistand, a photographer, mineralogist and taxidermist found himself spending summers in Manitou beginning in the mid 1880’s. After the completion of the Ruxton electric trolly line, Heistand, an avid collector of mineral specimens, opened up a retail shop just below the Manitou & Pikes Peak Cog Railway depot. No tourist stopover was complete without a visit to Heistand’s curio shoppe. 1886 brought more railroad activity to upper Ruxton with the construction of the Colorado Midland Railway viaduct over the trolly line, creek and road to the bustling upper Ruxton tourist and resort destination.
Around 1900, Heistand relocated to Manitou to live year-round where his entrepreneurial spirit moved him to purchase another upper Ruxton asset, the Ute Iron Spring, where he developed a new pavilion and the nearby Iron Springs Hotel. Heistand’s ambition didn’t stop there, he went on to acquire the summit house on Pikes Peak and became the official photographer for the Manitou & Pikes Peak Cog Railway.
Manitou’s iron-rich mineral waters along the upper Ruxton corridor became quite a draw for tourists and health seekers alike. In 1910 Heistand seized yet another opportunity with the drilling of the Iron Springs Geyser, directly adjacent to the electric trolly line just upstream from the Colorado Midland Railway viaduct. The new Iron Springs Geyser well was outfitted with a hand-blown glass font showcasing the effervescent spring waters, housed under a hip-roof style pavilion. Today speculation surrounding the Iron Spring Geyser’s pavilion suggests it may be the oldest-standing structure over a mineral spring within the state of Colorado. Remains of the Colorado Midland’s viaduct piers can still be seen in the creek bed just downstream from the Iron Springs Geyser.
My design of Iron Springs Geyser’s font alludes to the Ute Pass fault and the resulting springs and properties of iron, magnetism, rusting, metabolism, and the richness of colors derived from ferrous materials.
The dynamic form symbolizes the energy and force at the geologic intersection of the Ute Pass and Englemann Canyon faults, beneath one’s feet. The curved metal delivery pipe echos the curvature of the concrete cylinders that make up the base of the font and the circular metal access panel on top. The concrete cylinder was a design / technical feature which provided the basis of my starting point. The top surface tile work reflects the patterning of iron filings when exposed to magnetic forces.
While in the design process, I envisioned the iron mineral spring deposits would build up on the basin and surrounding areas, so I worked with a palette of reds and tans. The results over time have confirmed my vision.
The font is a sculpture that is both aesthetic and functional. I designed it to be visually strong and provide an easy supply of water to a vessel, without excessive splashing. The Iron Springs Geyser’s site is lovely and visitors find it relaxing in the pavilion, filling canteens, and enjoying the ambience of Ruxton Creek.