Seeking to improve his wife’s health, Robert Chambers traveled with Elsie and their children, Ben, Eleanor, and Bessie from Pennsylvania to Denver by train in 1874. Robert was persuaded by a friend to visit the new community of Colorado Springs along the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. He loved the land he was shown and purchased Walter Galloway’s 160-acre homestead, nestled between Camp Creek and the Garden of the Gods. He paid $1,400 in cash for the property. The Chambers built a house from stone, constructed a reservoir, and dug irrigation ditches to carry water to their crops. Mrs. Chambers named their new home “Rock Ledge Ranch.”
Between 1874 and 1900, Robert and Elsie Chambers raised their children Ben, Eleanor and Mary (Bessie died in infancy shortly after their arrival in Colorado) at Rock Ledge Ranch. They were also active members of the growing Colorado Springs community. Mr. Chambers served as school board president. Mrs. Chambers started a school in the Rock Ledge House and was active in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. The Chambers also found creative ways to increase the output of their farm. They built steam-heated greenhouses adjacent to the house in which they grew vegetables and flowers to sell during the winter. Because of their extensive irrigation system and reservoir, the Chambers developed quite a prosperous fruit orchard and vegetable farm. These are crops which do not grow easily in an arid climate. Some of their produce, along with Mrs. Chamber’s jams and jellies were sold to the Antlers Hotel in Colorado Springs. The Chambers also earned money by boarding tuberculosis patients on the second floor of their house. In 1900, Robert and Elsie decided to retire to California and sold their property to their Northern neighbor, General William J. Palmer, for $17,000. Rock Ledge Ranch then became a part of the Glen Eyrie Estate.
Our interpretation of the Chambers farm and Rock Ledge House focuses on the changes and progress that were seen both in Colorado Springs and at Rock Ledge Ranch at the end of the 19th century. Traveling through time raises the questions: How was life easier for the residents of Colorado Springs after the railroad’s arrival? What challenges did people like the Chambers still face?