Glenwood Springs Prohibition & the Roaring 20's
Scenic Glenwood Springs
Glenwood Springs Prohibition & the Roaring 20's

Prohibition Beginning in 1916

Colorado was one of 26 states that chose to enact prohibition beginning in 1916, but by 1920, it became the law of the land. Prohibition outlawed the manufacturing, distribution and sale of alcohol. Naturally, this created a black market, even in Glenwood Springs. Prohibition effectively shut down the rowdy saloons, gambling halls and brothels along Seventh Street. But because people still wanted a drink and a card game, organized crime filtered in to fill the void with bootleg hooch and speakeasies. In 1929, Leland “Jack” Varain, who later went by the name Diamond Jack Alterie, operated in Glenwood Springs. His criminal record included kidnapping, homicide, burglary, and more. He was known to entertain high-ranking mobsters from his hometown of Chicago including notorious crime kingpin Al Capone. The gangsters would meet at the Hotel Colorado where a special front door awning was installed so that Diamond Jack, Al Capone and others could enter the hotel unnoticed by guests and the police. Diamond Jack also liked to stay at the Hotel Denver. In 1932, he is said to have shot two innocent salesmen through a closed hotel room door. One of the salesmen died as a result of the wound. A judge fined Jack $1,250 and asked him to leave the state.

The Roaring 20's

In 1921, the name of the Grand River was officially changed to the Colorado River. It’s interesting to note that Grand Junction, Grand Lake and Grand County retain the reference to the river’s former name.

In 1923, over 400 convicts from Canon City were imported to grade and gravel a new road through Glenwood Canyon as part of an effort to complete the transcontinental Pike’s Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway. Upon completion in 1924, the roadway connected New York City to Los Angeles. It was named for Pike’s Peak because the organization overseeing the project was based out of Colorado Springs.

One of the most exciting events for residents of Glenwood Springs during the 1920s was the filming of The Great K & A Train Robbery. The 1926 movie starred silent screen heartthrob Tom Mix and featured scenes in Glenwood Canyon and at the train depot. At the peak of his fame, Mix was the highest-paid actor in Hollywood. Also, working on The Great K & A Train Robbery movie set was a young prop man named John Wayne who would eventually replace Mix as the swaggering cowboy hero of American Western films.

Explore all of the historical things to do, learn and see in Glenwood Springs with a modern twist; there is something for everyone and a new adventure to be had every day! For more Glenwood Springs history, visit the Glenwood Springs Hisotrical Society and Frontier Museum.

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