COLORADO SPRINGS — As Colorado Springs celebrates its 150th year, one school has been with the city nearly every step of the way.
William J. Palmer High School, named for the city’s founder, has been in the heart of Colorado Springs for more than 140 years.
“When Colorado Springs became a city, the first high school in the area was Colorado Springs High School, which was renamed Palmer High School.” said Palmer High School Principal, Laura Disney.
The school has gone by a few different names over the years and has seen a few different buildings since the first class graduated in 1879.
Originally known as the Old Stone School House, the school was renamed as Colorado Springs High School a short time later and then named to honor General Palmer in 1959. Palmer High has been in its current building since 1940.
Since it opened in 1875, there have been families with five generations of students to pass through Palmer’s halls.
“For a lot of our families, it is tradition,” Disney said.
The first lesson incoming freshman students learn is Palmer High’s history, from its founding, to the fire that took down the building in 1890, and to the history behind the school’s look.
The Palmer Terrors were named for the football team that played in the 1920’s. Back then, teams traveled across state borders to play. Few teams looked forward to to taking on Palmer High.
“They were very good and we earned the name ‘Terrors’ because they were the “Point a Minute” team,” Disney explained.
One team even forfeited against the Terrors because of how high the score became.
The school’s colors represent the city’s scenery: brown for the mountains and white for the snow.
Under Disney’s tenure, a tradition was expanded to a right of passage. The bell from the first building remains intact and is currently in the school’s courtyard. Students get to ring the bell twice, in ideal situations.
“Our students as freshman make a commitment to us and they ring the bell in,” Disney said. “When they graduate as seniors, they ring themselves out.”
Disney says members of the Class of 2020 were more worried about being able to ring the bell than they were with having an actual graduation ceremony.
In 1985, the school’s current alumni association was created and with it, a hall of fame for the school, which honors two or three students each year.
“We’re very proud of who we are as a school community and our students take great pride in their Colorado Springs community, but their school as a whole too,” Disney said.
Palmer High will celebrate its 150th birthday in 2025.
The CSHS-Palmer Alumni Association website contributed to much of the historical information in this report.