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Room without a view

Florence, Italy, has the Ponte Vecchio (Italian for “old bridge”); where shops line the road bed as the bridge spans the Arno River. Peyton, Colo., has the Black Squirrel Creek Bridge with built-in jail cells under the bridge.The Black Squirrel Creek Bridge’s unique features are no secret to Falcon’s long-time residents, and the bridge has been a topic of occasional news coverage over the years.Nick Ordon, former principal of Calhan Middle School, said the bridge, which is halfway between Falcon and Peyton on Highway 24, was built in the 1930s by a chain gang comprised of prisoners from Canon City.”That’s the way they got the labor. Underneath [the bridge], they built jail cells and that was to keep the prisoners in overnight instead of hauling them all the way back to Colorado Springs,” Ordon said.Nick Ordon’s wife Bev said she’s heard claims that the cells were also used to imprison World War II prisoners, but she doesn’t think it’s true.”It was prisoners from Canon City, and they brought them up to do manual labor because they didn’t have machinery to do a lot of the things,” she said.”The POW story keeps cropping, but they were prisoners, period, not prisoners of war.”My husband used to take kids there to see the cells. You could still go down there and look. They had steel bars and locks. They were like cages.”Black Forest resident, Ruth Ann Steele, said she heard about the bridge and its jail cells 25 years ago and went to see for herself.”It was fascinating to me, a part of our past. It was a horrible place to put somebody. It would be like burying them,” Steele said.She recalled seeing just one window, but the placement of windows in pictures taken recently indicates there was a cell at each end of the bridge.There might have been a door at one time, but there is no evidence of a door today, Steele said.At least one of the windows is still fitted with a hinged grating. Prisoners may have entered the cells through the windows.Over the years, weather may have eroded the soil beneath the windows, which are now too high to reach without a ladder.Nick Ordon said he remembers the cells being full of sand when he last visited the spot.Steele imagined being tired from doing a lot of physical work all day long and having to crawl into that place to go to bed.”It must have been very depressing,” she said. “I told everybody I knew at the time about the bridge, but I never found out if they had any amenities, like beds or toilets.”According to, the bridge is a riveted, eight-panel Parker through truss bridge and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.An inspection performed at the end of 2006 rated the deck, superstructure and substructure in poor condition, with a sufficiency rating of 43.3 out of 100. In 2005, daily traffic averaged 6,300 vehicles per day.

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