Pioneer Monument Fountain
Public Art : Pioneer Monument Fountain (aka Smoky
Hill Trail Monument)
Sculptor : © Frederick MacMonnies (1863-1937)
Date: Unveiled 1911
Description: Lets start with the water basin, which
is created from granite and set on a stepped granite base. In the center of the basin is three larger than life
size cast bronze sculptures representing a pioneer women, a hunter and a prospector. The top bronze figure,
represents Kit Carson who is, with rifle in hand, mounted on his trusty stead and dressed in his buckskins and
cowboy hat. He is looking towards the east (back to the civilization he left behind), while pointing the way
west (the promised land). Underneath Kit Carson on the second tier are small bronze conquered Indians.
Location : Corner of Broadway and Colfax
Avenue in Denver, Colorado, USA.
Funded by: Public subscription.
Controversy Surrounding the Pioneer Monument:
Fedrerick MacMonnies was commissioned in 1906 to create a monument at the end of the historical "59ers" Smoky Hill
trail, Denver, as part of Mayor Robert W. Speer's "beautification" of Denver plan. The monument was going to be a
feature of the Civic Center Park, but MacMonnies suggested that the monument have its own little space elsewhere in
a circular plaza. After much ado about nothing the council agreed. The original model the sculptor produced,
featured a fountain surrounded with statues of a miner, a trapper and a pioneer woman. But here comes the
clincher, the main feature, which would tower above everything, was to be a sculpture of an Indian. Well,
didn't that just outrage the good citizens of Denver. To say they were appalled would be an understatement.
Instead the residents wanted no one other than their hero Christopher "Kit" Carson (enemy of Navajo Indians)
perched at the peak. MacMonnies went to France to have the Kit Carson and the other bronze statues cast.
So enthusiastic were the City they organized Kit Carson's real rifle, powder pouch and hunting coat to be sent to
France so the sculptor would be sure to get it right. In the end the politically incorrect monument was
erected in 1911 to great cheers, as Kit Carson was immortalized forever in bronze, on his favourite horse. To
add insult to injury MacMonnies included a series of small bronze Indian sculptures below Carson on the second
tier, they are depicted as captured and defeated.
Originally the foutain sat in a circular plaza complete with a circular row of trees and ornamental
lights. However, over the years the original circular design has been whittled away, due mainly to
Denver's expansion. In the 1920's the circle was changed to a triangle space to ease the traffic flow then,
over the years, as Colfax Avenue was widened numerous times, less and less space has been left for poor old Kit and
his water fountain. There are currently plans to redesign the area, going back to the original circular design and
removing the ugly bus stop which is right near it. The fountain runs in the summer (unless there is water
rationing) and in winter, the fountain is drained.
Well I Never! : On the 21st of
October, 1999, a 28 year old nutter scaled the Pioneer Monument shouting he was armed with dynamite. Colfax,
Lincoln and Broadway streets were subsequently closed during rush hour. From his perch he invited the
media to come to his house so he could explain his outrageous behavior. He believed he had been chosen by the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the Son of Man and was to be crucified. His attention
seeking antics fell on deaf ears, as the media outlets were more interested in reporting on the Jon Bennet Ramsay
case. No one turned up for his hearing and he was charged with possession of a false explosive and refusing to
leave a premises. Sorry can't tell you anymore as no bothered to report the outcome.
|The tablet is the
property of the State of Colorado
Here was the end of the famous
Smoky Hill Trail
Immigrant and stage road extending
from the Missouri River to Denver.
Traversed by pioneers in 1858.
Surveyed by W.G. Russell in 1860.
Route of Butterfield's overland
despatch and Wells-Fargo Express.
The trail took its human toll-
death by thirst and Indian raids.
The State Historical Society of Colorado
from the Mrs J.N. Hall Foundation
and by the City and County of Denver
Subscribers to the Pioneer Monument Fund
Elizabeth M Byers- Junis F Brown-(Horace W Bennet
and Julius A Myers)-Arthur P Church-Walter S Cheesman
Adolph Coors-Ernest A Colburn-William Cooke Daniels
William G Evans-John Evans-Edward B Field
Frank W Frueauff-John S Flower-Simon Guggenheim
John Good-Charles Hallack-William A Hover
Moses Hallett-Harry C James-Charles B Kountze
Maria T Kassler-(FrankM Ladd and John F Sanger)
David H Moffat-George McCullough-JohnK Mullen
Thomas M Patterson-Jerome S Riche- Richard T Root
Dennis Sheedy-George C Schleier-Dennis Sullivan
Joseph A Thatcher - Henry R Wolcott
Thomas F Walsh - Phillip Zang
State of Colorado City and County of Denver
Erected under the auspices of
the Denver Real Estate Exchange
Federick MacMonnies Sculptor
|The Pioneer Monument
Restored December 1983 by
The Park People
The City and County of Denver
with the assistance of
Adolph Coors Foundation Fulenwider Foundation, INC
The Denver Foundation Patrick D and Paula Broe
Hamilton Oil Foundation G.A. Norgren Foundation
George and Sue Gannon The Weckbaugh Foundation
Martin J. and Mary Anee O'Fallon Trust
Blanche and Arthur Cowperthwaite
and more than fifty generous donors