Pueblo is a Home Rule Municipality that is the county seat and the most populous city of Pueblo County, Colorado, United States. The population was 106,595 in 2010 census, making it the 246th most populous city in the United States.
Pueblo is situated at the confluence of the Arkansas River and Fountain Creek south of the Colorado State Capitol in Denver, and 43 miles south of Colorado Springs. The area is considered to be semi-arid desert land, with approximately of precipitation annually; however with its location in the "banana belt", Pueblo tends to get less snow than the other major cities in Colorado. Pueblo is the heart of the Pueblo Metropolitan Statistical Area and an important part of the Front Range Urban Corridor. Pueblo is one of the largest steel-producing cities in the United States; because of this Pueblo is referred to as the "Steel City". The Historic Arkansas River Project (HARP) is a river walk in the Union Avenue Historic Commercial District, and shows the history of the Pueblo Flood.
James Beckwourth, George Simpson, and other trappers such as Mathew Kinkead, claimed to have helped construct the plaza that became known as El Pueblo or Fort Pueblo around 1842. George married Juana Maria Suaso and lived there for a year or two before moving; however, Simpson had no legal title to the land. The adobe structures were built with the intention of settlement and trade next to the Arkansas River, which then formed the U.S./Mexico border. About a dozen families lived there, trading with Native American tribes for hides, skins, livestock, as well as (later) cultivated plants, and liquor. Evidence of this trade, as well as other utilitarian goods, such as Native American pottery shards were found at the recently excavated site. According to accounts of residents who traded at the plaza (including that of George Simpson), the fort was raided sometime between December 23 and December 25, 1854, by a war party of Utes and Jicarilla Apaches under the leadership of Tierra Blanca, a Ute chief. They allegedly killed between fifteen and nineteen men and captured two children and one woman. The trading post was abandoned after the raid, but it became important again between 1858 and 1859 during the Colorado Gold Rush of 1859.
City of Pueblo
The current city of Pueblo represents the consolidation of four towns: Pueblo (incorporated 1870), South Pueblo (incorporated 1873), Central Pueblo (incorporated 1882), and Bessemer (incorporated 1886). Pueblo, South Pueblo, and Central Pueblo legally consolidated as the City of Pueblo between March 9 and April 6, 1886. Bessemer joined Pueblo in 1894.
The consolidated city was once a major economic and social center of Colorado, and was home to important early Colorado families such as the Thatchers, the Ormans and the Adamses. Until a series of major floods culminated in the Great Flood of 1921, Pueblo was considered the 'Saddle-Making capital of the World'. Roughly one-third of Pueblo's downtown businesses were lost in this flood, along with a substantial number of buildings. Pueblo has long struggled to come to grips with this loss, and has only recently begun a resurgence in growth.
The Steel Mill
The main industry in Pueblo for most of its history was the Colorado Fuel and Iron (CF&I) steel mill on the south side of town. The steel-market crash of 1982 led to the decline of the company. After going through several bankruptcies, the company was acquired by Oregon Steel Mills and changed its name to Rocky Mountain Steel Mills. As Rocky Mountain Steel, the company was plagued with labor problems, mostly due to accusations of unfair labor practices. The problems culminated with a major strike in 1997, leading to most of the workforce being replaced.
However, in September 2004, both local Unions 2102 & 3267 won the strike and the unfair labor practice charges. All of the striking steel workers were returned to their jobs, and the company was forced to repay them a record amount of back pay for the 7 years they were on strike. Some have called this a significant win for the labor union and the many families affected by the 7 year strike. In 2007, not long after Oregon Steel made amends with the union and its workers, Evraz Group, one of Russia's biggest steel producers, agreed to buy the company for $2.3 billion dollars.
Of the many production and fabrication mills which once existed on the site, only the steel production (electric furnaces, used for scrap recycling), rail, rod, bar, and seamless tube mills are still in operation. The wire mill was sold in the late 1990s to Davis Wire, which still produces products such as fence and nails under the CF&I brand name.
The facility operated blast furnaces until 1982, when the bottom fell out of the steel market. The main blast furnace structures were torn down in 1989, but due to asbestos content, many of the adjacent stoves still remain. The stoves and foundations for some of the furnaces can be easily seen from Interstate 25, which runs parallel to the plant's west boundary.
Several of the administration buildings, including the main office building, dispensary, and tunnel gatehouse were purchased in 2003 by the Bessemer Historical Society. In 2006, they underwent renovation. In addition to housing the historic CF&I Archives, they also house the Steelworks Museum of Industry and Culture.
Home of Heroes
Pueblo is the hometown of four Medal of Honor recipients - Drew D. Dix, Raymond G. Murphy, William J. Crawford, and Carl L. Sitter. U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower upon presenting Raymond G. "Jerry" Murphy with his Medal in 1953 commented, "What is it... something in the water out there in Pueblo? All you guys turn out to be heroes!" In 1993, the City Council adopted the tagline "Home of Heroes" because it can claim more recipients per capita than any other city in the United States. On July 1, 1993, the Congressional Record recognized Pueblo as the "Home of Heroes." There is a memorial to the recipients of the medal at the Pueblo Convention Center. Central High School is known as the "School of Heroes," as it is the alma mater of two recipients, Sitter and Crawford, more than any other high school in the country.
President Woodrow Wilson, on a speaking tour to gather support for the entry of the United States into the League of Nations, collapsed on September 25, 1919 following a speech in Pueblo. He suffered a stroke a week later which incapacitated him for the rest of his presidency.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower Jan. 16, 1957, toured drought-stricken regions of Pueblo County amid 20-degree weather.
President George H. W. Bush (when he was Vice President) visited the Pueblo Nature Center's Raptor Center to release an American Bald Eagle that had its wings healed.
In the 2008 presidential campaign, both major party candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, visited Pueblo as part of their campaigns. Colorado was considered a key swing state in that election, with Obama becoming the first Democratic candidate since Clinton in 1992 to win the state's electoral votes.
Pueblo State Hospital
Historically the other major employer in Pueblo was the State Hospital, which formerly served the entire state. Established in 1879 as the Colorado State Insane Asylum, it was known as the Colorado State Hospital after 1917. In 1991, the name was changed to the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo (CMHIP). Currently under construction is the new Forensic Medium and Maximum Security Center, a 200-bed, state-of-the-art high-security facility.