History of the Garden
of the Gods Trading Post
On April 7, 1929, the headline from The Colorado Springs Gazette read: “The Trading Post, the Pikes Peak region’s newest Indian store…will be an added attraction this summer to tourists and residents alike.” Enter present day, and the only alteration to this sentence need be “the region’s oldest Indian store.” The Garden of the Gods Trading Post has operated in its present manifestation since 1929. But the history of the original founder and proprietor, Charles E. Strausenback, is rich with old Mexican, early American, and Native American history—and goes well before and beyond that pivotal year.
Early in life, Strausenback admired southwestern culture. He was born in 1890 in Michoacán, Mexico and came to Colorado in 1910. Strausenback pursued his southwestern art interest by carving and painting figures out of gypsum rocks. He built his first souvenir stand in 1909 between Gateway Rocks in the Garden of the Gods Park.
This was one of many souvenir stands operated by Strausenback. His stand a few years later (1917) was near another budding entrepreneur, Edwin L. Rice. Rice was the boisterous proprietor of “Fatty Rice’s Place.” He offered souvenirs as well. Strausenback saw great success with this stand and sold souvenirs in the summer, and spent time on reservations during the winters. Strausenback eventually expanded his stands into the Garden of the Gods Trading Company. The original 40 by 60 feet store (built in 1929) remains an intricate aspect of the store today. Strausenback brought in Native American artists to perform their work on site.
TAT Enterprises, Inc. acquired the business in 1979. The Post has continually expanded, but remains true to its historic beginnings. Original Native American art is on display as well as paintings and photographs done by Strausenback. In the art gallery, one can peruse the work of local artists, view traditional as well as contemporary Native American jewelry, Navajo rugs, sand paintings, sculptures, and pueblo pottery. Gifts and souvenirs galore fill the rest of the store—as do T-shirts and apparel. Relax at the Balanced Rock Café or Trader Zeb’s and enjoy a savory or sweet treat inside or on the creek side patio. Additional offerings at The Post include the availability of the Peak View Conference Center for weddings, conferences, reunions, parties, and more.
The Pikes Peak region’s (and Colorado’s) oldest gift shop and gallery (with its ever-increasing offering of Native American arts and crafts) continues to grow the area’s history and continues to be a primary tourist destination.