What happens when you mix a mineral spring, marketing needs and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow?
Manitou Springs happens.
Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer originally designated the area west of Colorado City (now known as the Old Colorado City section of Colorado Springs) as “La Font” because of the mineral springs that are still famous in the area. Early advertising aimed at wealthy easterners expanded that to “Villa La Font.” Other advertisements also referred to the area as “New Saratoga.”
William Blackmore, an English-born investor and promoter of Palmer’s railroad, arrived in the area in August of 1871 and encountered Utes at La Font’s springs, according to Kathleen A. Brosnan, author of “Uniting Mountain & Plain.”
Blackmore assumed the Utes used the water ceremonially and suggested the name Manitou in honor of Longfellow’s poem “The Song of Hiawatha,” according to Brosnan.
Manitou is an Algonquin term meaning spirit or an object of reverence.
That the Utes likely knew nothing of the Algonquin deity or of Longfellow was inconsequential. The name was marketable and it stuck.
The town was known as Manitou until 1935, when it was formally changed to Manitou Springs.
A big “thank you” to Michael Maio, president of the Manitou Springs Heritage Center for his contribution to this article