On a commanding eminence, overlooking Colorado Springs and the surrounding plains, stands the Childs-Drexel Home for Union Printers. The buildings face west, and the view takes in the mountains from Castle Rock…to the Spanish Peaks…. The grounds about the Home are beautified by lawns, flowers, shrubs and trees. The driveway is lined on either side by young elms and a magnificent view is presented from the gateway
These words, printed in the Colorado Springs Gazette in 1902, still ring true for the Union Printers Home today. While the number and size of the buildings on the property has changed over time, the beauty remains the same – in landscape, architecture, and stunning views of the Front Range.
Since its dedication in 1892, the Union Printers Home (originally called the Childs-Drexel Home for Union Printers, in honor of the Philadelphia businessmen who donated the initial funds that led to the creation of the Home) served as a place of rest and respite, healing, and recovery, and, most of all, love and support for the fellow laborer. Established and maintained by the International Typographical Union (ITU) until their merger with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) in the 1980s, the Home was a monument to union labor and the fellowship that came with it.
The Union Printers Home once provided a place for “aged and infirm” printers to recover from illness or to retire and live out their days. In the early years, most of the residents of the Home were there because of lung conditions – either tuberculosis, which spread like wildfire among printers because of their cramped working spaces, or “printer’s lung,” a form of black lung stemming from the fumes of the carbon-based inks that were used in printing. Before the Home was established, the average life expectancy among printers was approximately 40 years; by the time the Home had been operating for 20 years, the life expectancy had increased to mid-60s – higher than the national average at that time.
Originally consisting of only one building – the Castle, which was 144’ x 40’ and three stories tall – on 80 acres of land, the property eventually grew to over 300 acres with 20-30 buildings. The Castle building more than doubled in size, various new buildings were constructed along with a large dairy farm and many acres of planting, and the property became nearly self-sustaining – its own “little city.” At its height, the Union Printers Home could house more than 400 residents, and it was a very active facility with lots of activities and entertainment to engage in.
Over time, as the printing trade declined, so did the Home’s finances. Much of the property was sold off from the 1970s onward, the dairy farm shut down, and the Home opened its doors to non-printers in order to continue operating. Two of the four remaining buildings on the property (the North and South buildings) were closed. In 1986, the ITU merger with CWA led to more financial difficulties, which eventually led to the sale to a private nursing home group in 2014. The nursing home facility closed in 2020.
When the UPH Partners purchased the property in 2021, no one could have imagined the amount of historical documents and artifacts we would find on site. We are now working to preserve and protect all the material for the future of the property.
If you would like to learn more about the history of the Home, please check out our historical website at www.uphhistory.org. The website is still a work in progress (especially for mobile compatibility), but we hope you’ll enjoy it – and stay tuned for more!
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