Glenwood Springs Eagles club likely disbanding, facility to go on the market
One of Glenwood Springs’ oldest social and benevolent organizations is expected to disband and sell its historic building next week. The 115-year-old Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 215 will meet at 7 p.m. Monday, and the Eagles Lodge will go on the market the following morning, said Jess Hankins.
Hankins is acting as the agent of the Grand Aerie, the order’s father organization. He is president of the Four Corners region, of which the local aerie is part.
“We’ve tried for three years to avoid it. But there’s a time when you’ve got to stop,” said Hankins, who has worked with the aerie under the direction of the national organization. “The last thing we want to do is lose the aerie in Glenwood Springs.”
He’s been sent to several struggling aeries to try and set things right, and has generally been successful. In Glenwood, management problems have been an issue and the Grand Aerie has decided the local organization is not working.
Through the years, the Eagles club has awarded numerous community grants and student scholarships, and the club hosts the annual free Thanksgiving Day meal for those who don’t otherwise have a place to go.
Hankins will work with a local real estate office to sell the property, located at 312 Seventh St. in downtown.
“I hope whoever we sell it to will preserve what is there in the building,” he said of the 1888 structure. He believes in the building’s potential. “That’s why I’ve already got a whole list of people wanting to buy it.”
The Eagles building was historically known as Durand’s Opera House, the Glenwood Springs Opera House, Odeon Theater and Odeon Dance Hall during the early 20th century, and famously housed a John Philip Sousa concert in 1901. In 1926, actor Tom Mix, who was in town filming “The Great K&A Train Robbery,” sponsored a prize fight in the theater.
The building is included on Glenwood Springs’ list of Historically Landmarked and Significant Places.
Read more about the building’s history in “Western opera houses connected their communities to culture”
Though the existing, 115-year-old aerie will lose its charter, Hankins will urge the members to reorganize. He said locating outside of downtown, in a more family oriented neighborhood, may help.
“We’re not trying to get rid of this aerie over there. We’re just trying to put them in a better place to where they can expand,” he said.
The most recent meeting of the 52-member organization saw five people in attendance, said aerie vice president Jonathan Gorst.
“At one time, that was a big aerie with a lot of members,” Hankins said. “But they got old and passed on and the younger generation looks at it different.”
Current aerie president Jared Hippensteel agreed. Hippensteel said many people his age don’t see the benefits of belonging to such a club.
“Glenwood Springs is changing … going through a transition,” said Hippensteel, who is nearing 40 and identifies as a member of Gen X. “One of the big transitions are social clubs like the Eagles, that were present 100 years ago, are a dying breed.”
Aspen is home to the nearest aerie, and its club serves as a “dive-bar-type situation,” Hippensteel said. It attracts members of the service industry who don’t want to pay top dollar for a cocktail at a fancy bar. Glenwood doesn’t see the same need.
“If it’s not in the best interest of the organization (to keep the building), my secondary wish is for that to be our performing arts center. We can’t pretend I’m not on both sides of the issue,” said Gorst, who is an owner of Riviera Supper Club and member of the city’s arts and culture board.
He has previously expressed interest in returning the building to something like its original purpose, which was an opera house. An arts center would provide a gathering spot for the community.
Gorst sees several possible ways to reach that goal: a private enterprise, a public-private partnership or a government purchase of the building, with the intent of use for such a space. “Whichever way it goes, I feel we will win if we make it some sort of civic and cultural entity for the city,” he said.
The building includes a kitchen, a large stage and significant square footage. Hippensteel is enthusiastic about Gorst’s ideas, and points to the success of the Riviera as evidence.
Though he’s concerned that existing members may not understand why the organization had to change, Hippensteel is optimistic for the future of the Eagles.
“I’m sure a lot of people didn’t like the bridge construction while it was going on,” he said, “but now it’s cool as hell.”