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Historical Perspectives

The “Banning” and “Lewis” in the ranch

When Ruth Banning was born in Colorado Springs in 1892, she might have married young, raised a family, become a patron of the arts and written some poetry.Instead, Banning graduated from Colorado Springs High School in 1910 and headed to Massachusetts, where she attended Wellesley College. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1915 and returned to Colorado Springs and taught English at Colorado College for a year.Earlier, Banning’s father, William, had died during her final year at college.Her brother, William Banning Jr., assumed management of the two Banning businesses: the 400-acre Banning Ranch, southeast of the present location of the World Arena, and the Union Ice and Coal Co. on Vertigo Street in Colorado Springs.When her brother died in 1916 from injuries sustained while training with Colorado Battery C in Golden, Colo., as part of the World War I effort, Banning took over the family businesses – and added to it.As was the practice of the day, homemakers kept food cold by storing the food and a block of ice in an “ice box.” When the ice melted, it had to be replaced, a service Banning began providing when she organized the Consumers Ice Delivery Co. The company distributed all the ice manufactured in the city.”There is no reason why a woman should not conduct any manufacturing business successfully. It is merely a question of applying one’s self to the work at hand,” Banning said, when she was the first woman elected to the board of the Mountain States Ice Manufacturing Association.In 1921, Banning surprised the locals by marrying Raymond Lewis, whose parents owned ranches in Rocky Ford and Fowler, Colo. A few close friends attended the private ceremony, which was held in the Banning home at 821 No. Nevada Ave.Lewis was a graduate of Colorado College and a noted sportsman, playing tennis and polo. His friends called him “Pinky” because his face turned red when he played football.Four months after the wedding, Banning bought 10 prize-winning heifers with the intention of making Colorado Springs known for purebred Herefords.Banning proved her business smarts by selling the Union Ice and Coal Co. for $200,000, a month after giving a speech entitled, “The Problem Presented to the Ice Dealer by the Small Refrigerating Machine for Domestic Use.”At the time, Banning told a newspaper reporter that she intended “to enter the ranch and cattle business” with her husband.In 1927, Lewis completed the first of 43 separate transactions that would eventually total more than 38,000 acres, spreading from Woodmen Road on the north to Big Johnson Reservoir on the south. They called the property the “Banning-Lewis Ranches.”Some of the ranch was later sold to accommodate the Colorado Springs Airport and Peterson Air Force Base.At the American Hereford Association’s Golden Jubilee Show in Kansas City in 1932, Banning-Lewis Ranches had the champion bull, Prince Domino 101st.In the early 1940s, Lewis had a railroad car placed on top of Jimmy Camp Bluffs, which was part of the ranch. He required that no greenery was disturbed, so three cranes were used to pass the car over the trees.The railroad car was used for serving food and drinks to local politicians and businessmen, who attended Lewis’ annual men-only barbeque.Banning and Lewis, who had no children, did not live on the ranch. Instead, they lived in the Banning house on North Nevada Avenue and used the house next door as an office.That arrangement ended when Banning slipped on ice in 1958 and broke her hip.She decided to move the two houses to the ranch, where they remain today, located at the end of a tree-lined dirt road, midway between Garrett Road and Constitution Avenue.The couple moved into a suite at The Broadmoor Hotel, where Banning died in 1962 after an extended illness. She was 70 years old.In addition to ranching, Banning served on several boards, including School District 11 and the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. She was the second woman elected to the Colorado Springs City Council (1943 to 1947) and the first woman elected to the board of the National American Hereford Association.In 1963, Lewis sold 23,670 acres of the ranch to a development company based in Phoenix, Ariz., the first of six companies lured by the idea of making big money building houses east of Colorado Springs.Lewis died in 1978, 29 years before the first house sold at Banning Lewis Ranch.

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