You can tell spring its on its way when the crocuses begin to bloom at the Starlight Lodge in Glenwood Springs.
Nearly 40 years ago, a Polish immigrant, Teresa Bartnik, planted a bunch of crocuses around the outside of the lodge and around the neighborhood, where they continue to bloom each year.
“I planted them outside the window of my office,” Bartnik said with her thick accent. “Now they keep coming more and more and more every year.”
Bartnik and her husband, Nitch, who passed away 10 years ago, bought the Starlight Lodge in 1975 after a journey that included escaping from Poland and going to Paris, where they got married. From Paris they immigrated to the United States in 1964 and lived in New York, Chicago, Miami and finally settled in Denver.
Nitch, who was a veterinarian in Poland, went back to school in Denver and trained to become a respiratory therapist. The couple had two sons, Andrew and Mark, and the family would often come to Glenwood to enjoy the Hot Springs Pool.
“My husband often said that when he was older, he wanted to buy something here,” Teresa said. “I said, ‘Why? There’s nothing here. It’s a junky town.’”
But Nitch was offered a job at Valley View Hospital, and the family made the move.
Someone later asked Teresa if she and her husband would be interested in purchasing the Starlight Lodge.
“I didn’t know anything about a motel,” Bartnik said with a laugh.
The couple purchased the lodge, and it remains a family-run operation with Teresa, now 75, and her son, Andrew, who manages the lodge, along with some other family members. It is located one block west of the Hot Springs Pool and across the street from the Ramada Inn & Suites.
With Alpine infrastructure and the mountains as a backdrop, it’s easy to see how the surroundings would appeal to someone of European heritage. And as the snow melts off the mountains, the Starlight Lodge will be awash in spring flowers.
“I also plant petunias and all kinds of flowers,” Bartnik said proudly. “I’m from Europe, I’m from Poland — I love flowers.”