Glenwood Springs’ first tax was for road building |

Glenwood Springs’ first tax was for road building

Frontier Diary
Willa Kane
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Photo Courtesy Frontier Historical SocietyAlthough the streets of Glenwood Springs were platted, a great deal of work needed to be done, as shown in this 1886 photo, to create the roadways that would define the town. To maintain the existing infrastructure, in July 1886 a poll tax was assessed on every able-bodied male to fund cleaning and street repair.

A fine is a tax for doing something wrong. A tax is a fine for doing something right.

– Unknown

Once Glenwood Springs became incorporated on Aug. 28, 1885, community leaders lost no time in bringing order to the town. At the first council meeting on Oct. 5, 1885, trustees passed a dizzying array of ordinances. All were designed to bring civility and safety to the residents. Some were destined to bring money into town coffers.

Most of the original ordinances dealt with saloons, gambling houses, dance halls and drunkenness. Theatrical productions and entertainment were banned on Sunday. Fines were assessed for the carrying of pistols, revolvers, bowie knives, daggers, sling shots, and brass knuckles and for the quarreling and loud and disorderly conduct that may or may not have led to the use of the weapons. A person convicted of immodest riding (driving or riding any animal at a speed of more than six miles per hour) on any street, alley or public lane within the town’s limits was fined not less than $5 and not more than $100.

Ease of transportation consumed the attention of early officials. With the definition of streets and alleys came the establishment of grade elevations. Wooden sidewalks, to be constructed by each property owner, became mandatory with sidewalk specifications determining the width and thickness of planking used. To promote sanitation, animals could not wander the streets, but instead had to be confined. Each property owner on Grand Avenue in April 1886 was asked to contribute $5.00 toward the construction of storm gutters.

Voluntary contributions would not, however, maintain the streets. On July 9, 1886, Glenwood Springs trustees voted to approve what appears to be the town’s first tax. The ordinance mandated that “every able bodied male citizen between the ages of 21 and 60 who shall have resided in the corporate limits of said town for three consecutive months on the first day of June each year shall be liable for and required to pay a poll tax of three dollars, which when collected shall constitute a special fund to be used in cleaning and repairing the streets of said town. Provided that any person so preferring may in lieu of such payment work upon the streets of said town for one day.”

In a short time, defined streets, improved through hard work and taxes, enabled commerce and settlement in Glenwood Springs. While the fines and taxes may have been debated by Glenwood Springs residents, they were a necessary means to bring a higher quality life to a budding young town.

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. Winter hours are 1-4 p.m. Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. For more information, call 945-4448.

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