Glenwood Springs History

The History Of Glenwood Springs, CO

Originally inhabited by nomadic Ute Indian tribes, this area of bubbling hot springs has long been a destination for the health seeker. In the early 1880's, James Landis homesteaded the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Grand Rivers that would become Glenwood Springs.

Early settlers Isaac Cooper and Walter Devereux saw the potential for Glenwood Springs to become a highly regarded destination and developed these amenities into a world class resort. The arrival of the railroads in 1887 brought the first trainloads of tourists to enjoy all that Glenwood had to offer. The addition of the Vapor Caves, Hotel Colorado and Fairy Caves provided a total package for the well-heeled traveler. The local economy was not only fueled by tourism, but also by coal mining, farming and ranching, commerce and outdoor recreation. A visit to historic Glenwood Springs will take guests back in time to enjoy all of the amenities that were formerly reserved for the well-to-do.

Hot Springs Pool and Bathhouse

With a diversion of the Grand (now Colorado) River in 1886, visionary real estate magnate Walter Devereux sought to develop the natural hot springs bubbling from the ground into a world-class recreational attraction. The Hot Springs Pool officially opened July 4, 1888. The European-style sandstone bathhouse was later completed in 1890, and to this day remains the centerpiece of the property.

Hotel Colorado

Designed after the Villa de Medici Castle in Italy, the Hotel Colorado was originally a summer destination for affluent tourists. Opened in 1893, the Hotel Colorado employed a highly trained staff in its luxurious surroundings to cater to visitors who expected only the best. Over the years, the hotel has played host to presidents, gangsters and movie stars.

Vapor Caves

The current Yampah Vapor Caves was actually the third geothermal cave to be opened to the public, but the only one on the north side of the river and specifically intended for use by the wealthy clientele of the Hot Springs Pool and Hotel Colorado. Workers began development of the cave itself in 1892, providing marble benches for seating in this "hygienic Hades." After completion of the cave building, the facility opened in March of 1896.

Historic Fairy Caves and Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

The Fairy Caves Co. was incorporated in 1895 by local attorney, Charles Darrow. By July of 1896, a road up Iron Mountain was constructed to access the caves which were previously reached by a foot trail up the mountain behind the Hotel Colorado. By the summer of 1897, electric wires had been strung up the mountain and throughout the caves, making the Fairy Caves one of the first five electrically lighted caves in the country. In 1900, a tunnel to Exclamation Point was blasted through, creating a place to view the magnificent landscape of Glenwood Springs and the Canyon of the Grand.

Iron Mountain Hot Springs

The history of the Iron Mountain Hot Springs property dates back to 1896, when the West Glenwood Health Spa opened. Over the next 100 years, it changed hands multiple times and also operated as the Wash Allen Bathhouse, the Gamba Mineral Springs, the Glenwood Health Spa, the Fort Defiance Bathhouse and the Iron Springs Spa. After sitting vacant for almost 20 years, the Iron Mountain Hot Springs reopened in July 2015, welcoming visitors to once again soak in the iron-rich mineral waters along the bank of the Colorado River.

Linwood Cemetery

Established in 1886, Linwood Cemetery contains the graves of the pioneers of Glenwood Springs. It is also the final resting place dentist, gunslinger and Western legend Doc Holliday, who died of tuberculosis here in November of 1887. Doc had arrived in May of that year, presumably looking to the hot springs as a cure for his tuberculosis. Harvey Logan, alias “Kid Curry” was also buried in Linwood after committing suicide following a train robbery in 1904 near Parachute. Logan had been, for a while, a member of Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid’s gang. Exploring this historic graveyard, with its beautiful and interesting headstones, is not to be missed.

Frontier Historical Museum

The Glenwood Frontier Historical Society is located in a historic 1905 house and filled with artifacts and exhibits that take visitors back in time. On display is everything from household life, mining and ranching to relics from the Ute Indians, Doc Holliday, Teddy Roosevelt and Buffalo Bill Cody, all of whom spent time in Glenwood Springs. The archives are available for research and the photo collection contains over 5,000 historic images. Pick up a walking tour of downtown historic Glenwood Springs or arrange for a guided tour. Shop the Museum Store for books on Glenwood Springs history, Doc Holliday and much more.

Glenwood Railroad Museum

The railroad museum, part of the National Railway Historical Society, is located in the historic train depot on Seventh Street. Built by the Denver & Rio Grande railroad in 1904, this depot is still a working Amtrak train station. The museum focuses on Glenwood Springs’ railroad history, with model railroads and train artifacts as well as a collection of memorabilia from the seven railroads that have served the Roaring Fork Valley.

Cardiff Coke Ovens

An important part of the mining history of this area, the Cardiff coke ovens (circa 1888) were used to superheat locally-mined coal to remove any impurities. A company town grew up around the ovens, where upwards of 250 people resided. There was a company store, post office and school. Remnants of the coke ovens, on the National Register of Historic Places, can still be seen today.

History-related events: Annual Ghost Walk through Linwood Cemetery

Held every October, costumed actors portray the pioneers of Glenwood Springs who are buried in the cemetery. Tour guides lead visitors up the half-mile trail to the graveyard at night by lantern light. With tickets going on sale October 1, this fundraiser for the Frontier Historical Society is a sell out every year, so buy your tickets early.

Storm King Fire & Memorial

On July 6, 1994, 14 firefighters perished as a wall of flames swept over them in a matter of seconds. Trapped by steep slopes and dense vegetation, they gave their lives in the line of duty on Storm King Mountain about five miles west of Glenwood Springs.

There is a memorial at Two Rivers Park to honor the 14 fallen firefighters. It is a stopping place for firefighter crews passing through Glenwood Springs either enroute to a fire or returning home. It honors all firefighters and allows visitors to reflect on how courageous wildland firefighters are - putting their lives on the line to save others.

Visitors can also trace the path of fallen fighters to pay their respects and to better understand what happened that day. The Storm King Memorial Trail is a primitive trail that is very similar to the one the firefighters took. This trail is not recommended for everyone. You must be in good health and it is recommended to hike with another person. The BLM maintains the path in this condition, based on the families' wishes to pay tribute to the firefighters and acknowledge the conditions they work under. The trail is used to educate and train Smoke Jumpers and Hotshot crews during the summer months.

For more on Glenwood Springs' history visit the Frontier Historical Society.

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