The richness of life lies in memories we have forgotten.
— Cesare Pavese
How can a community preserve and remember its past? This is the question a group of civic-minded citizens set to answer when they formed the Frontier Historical Society five decades ago.
Long before the Frontier Historical Society was established, the movement to celebrate and remember Glenwood Springs’ past was evident in the actions of the pioneers who founded the town. In August 1935, a great celebration honoring the town’s 50th birthday included displays of clothing, tools, household implements and newspapers. Those solid items spurred the memories of the founders, created discussions of the events of the past, and enabled those memories to be passed to children, grandchildren and new residents. Five years later, Sen. Edward T. Taylor offered the donation of his Bennett Avenue home to the city of Glenwood Springs for a use as a museum that would house and preserve items relevant and important to Glenwood Springs’ history. The offer was declined due to financial considerations.
Twenty years later, the movement to preserve, display and interpret Glenwood Springs’ history gathered momentum. In 1963, numerous Glenwood Springs residents pledged artifacts to a proposed museum and to financially support the organization. On Jan. 8, 1964, the organization officially became the Frontier Historical Society, with Bill Bolitho as its first president. The first small museum was housed in the Hotel Colorado, and then relocated to a house on School Street. The generous donation by Churchill and Stella Shumate of their home in 1971 brought the Frontier Historical Society’s museum and its collections to its present location at 1001 Colorado Ave.
From the first official cataloging of a rock and mineral collection donated by George Weirick in 1963, the richness of the donated artifacts housed and displayed in the Frontier Historical Museum has grown steadily over the past five decades. In addition to the three dimensional items which tell the stories of how people lived and worked throughout the nearly 130 years of Glenwood Springs’ history, the thousands of photographs in the photo collection visually chronicle the town’s changes over time. The archives, with its books, newspapers, high school year books, maps, directories and indexes assist with research into family histories and local events.
Community outreach is important to the Frontier Historical Society. Over the years, partnerships formed with the Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers and Elks Lodge #2286 greatly assist with the preservation of Linwood Cemetery. Working with the city of Glenwood Springs, the Frontier Historical Society has collaborated with the Glenwood Springs Historic Preservation Commission regarding building landmarking, and the Glenwood Springs Parks and Recreation Department on the creation of interpretative signage. The lecture series held in conjunction with the Glenwood Springs Branch Library brings historical lecturers and authors to town during its winter lecture series. Work with the Glenwood Springs Chamber of Commerce helps provide historical knowledge to Glenwood Springs’ visitors. Trunk programs to local schools and school tours of the museum bring knowledge to the young, bridging the past, present and future. And association with the Four Rivers Historical Alliance and the Colorado-Wyoming Association of Museums provides up-to-date information on the preservation of artifacts for future generations.
Much of the work done at the Frontier Historical Society could not be accomplished without the dedication of volunteers. During the past 50 years, countless people have donated their time manning the museum’s front desk to greet and assist local, national and international visitors. Volunteers have cataloged and indexed the collections, participated in the cleanup of the Cardiff Coke Ovens and Linwood Cemetery, acted or guided during the annual Ghost Walk at Linwood Cemetery, or guided the Frontier Historical Society into the future by becoming a member of the board of directors. The support by local businesses on the various projects sponsored by the Frontier Historical Society has been invaluable, as has the generous financial support by the Frontier Historical Society’s membership.
The Frontier Historical Society invites you to visit the museum, volunteer and become a member. Remember the past for the future. Become part of the organization serving as the living legacy of our local life.
Willa Kane is former archivist of and a current volunteer with the Frontier Historical Society and Museum. “Frontier Diary,” which appears the first Tuesday of every month, is provided to the Post Independent by the museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Summer hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 945-4448.