Pikes Peak Summit Complex Newsletter 
April 2020
My Mountain | Ambassador
"Pikes Peak is my Mountain because it symbolizes a lot of the mountains and challenges that I had to overcome through my journey of becoming a successful athlete and the person I am today."
Paralympian Brandon Lyons - Pikes Peak Ambassador

CLICK HERE  to find out more.

Thank you, Brandon Lyons for being an Ambassador for Pikes Peak - America's Mountain!
Meet James Koller Sweeny: 
Making History on the Summit of Pikes Peak in 1878

Many characters in the Pikes Peak Region possessed the qualities of extraordinary strength, courage and determination. Two famous characters are Zebulon Pike, credited for "discovering" Pikes Peak in 1806, and General William Jackson Palmer, a Civil War hero who founded the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, as well as Colorado Springs.

Meet James Koller Sweeny - Not as Famous, but just as Determined!
United States Army Signal Corps 
James Koller Sweeny
Recently, the Sweeny family shared the story of their great-grandfather, James Koller Sweeny, and his experiences atop Pikes Peak. As a young man in 1878, Sweeny enlisted in the U.S. Army. Shortly thereafter, he was sent to the summit of Pikes Peak to be a weather observer for the United States Signal Corps.
Sweeny's first job was to test the workings of a new-fangled invention - the telephone!
First, before he could perform this duty, Sweeny had to travel by train to Colorado Springs, then by mule to the top of Pikes Peak. When Sweeny arrived in Colorado from the East on the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, he had $1.50 in his pocket. In his later writings, he remembered being 2,000 miles from home, half-starved and homesick. He received a real meal and was able to sleep on a kitchen floor for $1.00 before finishing his train trip to Colorado Springs on September 2, 1878.
In Colorado Springs, Sgt. William Blake greeted him with a mule and, together, they walked down Cascade Avenue where the Antlers Hotel was later built. Sgt. Blake told him, "Young man, follow the trail through the scrub oak covered hills until you reach the mouth of the Canyon, where you will find the telegraph line, just follow it to Pikes Peak." Sweeny was fortunate that the mule knew which of the hundreds of cattle trails to follow through the brush to connect to the trail to Pikes Peak.
Signal Station - Pikes Peak

Fighting through Wind and Snow to Summit Pikes Peak by Mule
Despite driving snow and freezing temperatures, Sweeny was behind schedule and knew he had to move fast. He found Mrs. Copeland closing up their cabin for the season near Lake Moraine. The residents convinced him to stay overnight - and urged him to stay longer - but he only stayed one night. With great effort, he finally arrived at the summit the next day.

"A trip to the Peak in the winter time was a very hazardous undertaking," Sweeny remembered. "Many times, through sheer exhaustion I would bury myself in the drifts of snow without hope for strength to go farther, expecting to freeze to death. After rest and with determination to go on, I would try again. One time it took me from three o'clock in the afternoon until after midnight to go three miles from Timberline to the station on top of Pikes Peak. To travel through these storms when the wind was blowing 75 to 100 miles per hour, one must push himself side-ways and end-wise against the wind. I would cover my nose and mouth with my hands or wrap my muffler around my face."
Sweeny's Contribution to Technology and History
Now at the summit of Pikes Peak, Sweeny needed to address his critical task as a weather observer for the United States Signal Corps: Test the workings of the newly invented telephone from this high-altitude location.
He connected earphones with the telegraph wires that the government had constructed for rapid transmission of weather reports, which were sent from the summit of Pikes Peak to Colorado Springs. In his writings, he noted that the earphones were used both for receiving and sending transmissions. "My recollection is that it compared to the perfect work of modern telephones," said Sweeny. "My work was not a great success, but it worked."

In Time, Sweeny Came to Relish "The Hardships of Winter and the Glories of Summer"
Picture taken on top of Pikes Peak, 14,115 feet high, August 8th,1937, 59 years after James Koller Sweeny made his first trip to the top on burro, where he was stationed as a U.S. weather observer for three years,1878-1881. Pictured are James Koller Sweeny, Harold H. Summers, Rose Crystal Jackson and Little Mary Marlene Summers, great-granddaughter. Taken by Ruth Hayden Summers and Mrs. Esther Sweeny Jackson.
Sweeny reported: "My first three days [on the summit] I suffered from extreme nausea, and 
Sgt. Choate insisted that I return to Colorado Springs for examination. The three days of fasting and vomiting had made me very weak, but I arrived at timberline, and the balsam laden air of spruce and pine quickly invigorated me. I wanted to go back to the top of the Peak, but Sgt. Choate insisted I continue on and have a physical examination. After two days of rest at lower altitude, I went back to the Peak, and for the rest of the three years that I remained, I could take all the hardships of winter and the glories of summer without complaint. Because I didn't mind staying on the Peak alone, I was often left there for long periods of time." Sweeny added that he was often left alone on Pikes Peak's summit for twenty or thirty days without seeing a human being, bird or animal.
Sweeny was stationed as a U.S. weather observer on Pikes Peak for three years (1878-1881). He recalled that, in 1878, there were plenty of deer. Only now and then he would see a mountain lion, other type of "wild-cat" or bear. He did not recall if any of the Signal Service men ever shot a wild animal or even carried a gun. There were a few books on the shelves at the station that were well-read, especially in the winter. Well-thumbed books included The Bible and an edition of William Shakespeare's works.
Later, Sweeny built the Callahan House in Longmont, which is now an event facility. He also owned and operated the Sweeny Feed Mill in Pueblo from 1897 until he died in 1940. The Sweeny Feed Mill closed its operation in 2006.
Thank you to the Sweeny family for sharing their story. READ HERE about James Koller Sweeny's extraordinary life in his own words. His Pikes Peak adventure is only part of his extraordinary story!

All of us here at Pikes Peak - America's Mountain are taking precautionary measures to ensure your safety.

The gift shops remain closed and we are requiring guests to purchase their passes online (valid for one year from purchase date).

Remember! All access is weather permitting, so call into our information line at 719-385-7325 before making the trip! We do ask you that if you do not feel well to please stay home.

While construction is deemed a critical activity by the state, we are taking extra precautions to keep our Pikes Peak project team safe. Posters from the CDC hang onsite to remind workers to stay home if they are sick, be diligent regarding handwashing, and practice social distancing. Practices for this site includes increased cleaning of site common areas and PPE; staggered start times and mealtimes; and dispersed work groups of 10 people or less. Project leadership continues to track and follow Federal, state, and local healthcare guidance to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Fundraising campaign completion: late summer
Interior work began late 2019
2020 construction schedule:
  • Early to mid-summer: finish structural backfill, concrete slab sequence and dining terrace
  • Mid- to late-summer: west parking lot, roof system, finish boardwalk system, window system
  • Early Fall: start exhibit installation
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CLICK HERE to checkout what's going on a top Americas Mountain right this minute. V iew a LIVE camera feed from Contractor GE Johnson and keep up with the amazing construction progress of the new Pikes Peak Summit Complex!
KRDO: The Extra with Renae Roberts - February 12, 2020
Sandy Elliott and Jim Johnson talk about the new Pikes Peak Summit Complex regarding the construction timeline and progress, how they coordinate everything, what it's like working atop Americas Mountain and much more! CLICK HERE to listen.

"Our team likes solving problems & identified as a unique challenge, also we had the skill set to address. Such a significant project that it is going to be seen by so many people. The pride is not something you get every day." -Jim Johnson, President and CEO of GE Johnson
Established in 1860, the United States Army Signal Corps (USASC) is a division of the Department of the Army. The USASC creates and manages communications and information systems for the command and control of the combined armed forces. Over its history, it had the initial responsibility for various new technologies that were eventually transferred to other U.S. government entities. Such responsibilities included military intelligence, weather forecasting, and aviation.
Clearing the road to make certain workers can get to the top of the mountain to continue construction work on the Pikes Peak Summit Complex.

Pictured is the new dining facilities in the  Pikes Peak Summit Complex. Visitors will be able to pause for refreshments at the cafĂ© or at an outdoors dining area as well as photograph the unequalled vistas from the top of Americas Mountain.

Pictured is the new expanded gift shop within the Pikes Peak Summit Complex. It will include our collection of books on area history, wildlife, and the environment!

Pictured is GE Johnson  construction workers installing a floor heating system. This will allow visitors who take a trip to the top of the mountain to stay warm and comfortable while enjoying the gorgeous views.

Rose Crystal, James Koller Sweeny's great-granddaughter said:

James Koller Sweeny and great granddaughter Mary Marlene Summers
"The Summit House on Pikes Peak means a lot to the Sweeny family. I first remember going there in a hailstorm in August 1956. The car was sliding down the mountain, and my mother and newborn baby brother were crying. We had to make it to the summit to get to see "Grandpa Sweeny's House" and look for the initials he carved in the stones. We think we found them then, and again in 2006, but they were placed upside down after a renovation. The Summit House contains history and family lore, which draws us back across the decades. James Koller Sweeney was apparently a very kind and gentle man by all recounts, but he was tough enough to live in the winter up there."

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