Ahead of His Time

Digs & Discoveries March/April 2019

(Courtesy Alpine Archaeological Consultants)

William Jackson Palmer was a Civil War hero, railroad magnate, and founder of Colorado Springs. He was also a connoisseur of the cutting-edge technology of his day, evidence of which has been found during an excavation of a late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century dumping ground on land that once belonged to his Colorado Springs estate, Glen Eyrie. Among the artifacts recovered from the site, on a creek bed roughly half a mile from Glen Eyrie’s castle, are fragments of early dry-cell batteries that Palmer used to power electric gates on the estate. “Palmer was on the forefront of technological advancement as well as self-sustainability,” says Sara Millward of Alpine Archaeological Consultants. Her colleague Mike Prouty adds that Palmer also ran a power plant on the property, designed reservoirs to supply running water to the house, and would likely have taken care to dispose of waste in a manner that would neither spoil the physical beauty of the estate nor interfere with his many engineering projects. Other objects found in the dump reveal Palmer’s taste for high living, including fine English ceramics, imported shellfish, and liquor bottles, whose contents the teetotaler Palmer presumably used to entertain his guests.

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