The Ritzman Cement Company was opened in 1906 by John Ritzman on South 9th Street, in the former location of a smelter. The cement plant manufactured a variety of cement products including ornamental garden objects, irrigation tile, granaries, and ornamental building blocks. An example of ornamental building blocks is the former Rio Grande Hotel at 302 S. 9th Street. The hotel was built by Ritzman and run by him and his wife according to an article in the Cañon City Record on December 12, 1907.
From around the turn of the 20th century to around 1930-1940, ornamental concrete blocks were popular as they made use of local materials and were considered fairly strong. Advances in concrete manufacturing and development of easy to use concrete block forming machines led to common use in construction. Concrete block making machines could be ordered from places like Sear, Roebuck & Co. These building were inexpensive, strong, mostly fireproof, and easy to build.
Ritzman was born in Switzerland on October 27, 1857 and immigrated to the United States as a young man. Due to ill health, he moved to Cañon City and became engaged in fruit growing in the Lincoln Park area. He then started the cement business in which his brother, Lorentz Ritzman, was also involved. While he still had interests in Cañon City, he made his family home in Montrose for some years before his death. Ritzman passed away from an affliction of his stomach in Cañon City on April 15, 1915 and is buried in Lakeside Cemetery.
Happy Birthday John Ritzman!
The information presented in this article is compiled using research conducted by the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.