Frontier Diary: English investment made Glenwood Springs possible
Glenwood Springs Historical Society
He (W.B. Devereux) has just returned from London, whither he has been to raise money from the English stockholders of his company for extensive improvement on the mineral springs property.
— Aspen Evening Chronicle, July 15, 1891
Walter B. Devereux created Glenwood Springs. It was his vision and drive that built the Hotel Colorado, developed the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, and lighted Glenwood Springs with its first electricity. It was Devereux who ultimately would bring thousands of entertainment and health seekers from across the nation and world to a small and very special place in western Colorado. However, Devereux did not accomplish this alone. Silently behind the scenes were English investors willing to back Devereux’s vision.
Primarily providing financial support for Devereux’s grand development was Rathbone Bros. & Co. of Liverpool and London. A firm with global connections, Rathbone Bros. & Co. had created its wealth in the 1800s through shipping, and through the trade of tea, cotton and grain. In the 1880s, its focus shifted from trade and into financial operations, providing financing and letters of credit.
Like many other English investors, Rathbone Bros. & Co. found investment in ventures in the United States more profitable than investments in their homeland. They could provide funding for projects such as those proposed by Walter Devereux, and were willing to do so due to the economic growth and expansion of the American West.
A socially conscious firm, William and Samuel Rathbone agreed in providing for their families but also in limiting inheritance. Samuel Rathbone is quoted, “It is humbug slaving our constitutions away to leave large fortunes to our children which will probably only get them into grief and debauchery.” Instead, profits were used to fund social causes in the effort to make a lasting and positive impact on society. Profits were also used to pursue interests unrelated to making money.
From a transportation aspect, Glenwood Springs was a difficult destination. Railroads were vital to the success of the new resort. Among the investors in the Colorado Midland Railway, which reached Glenwood Springs in 1887, was Rathbone Bros. & Co. The stations of Lidderdale, Busk, Sellar and Rathbone along the Colorado Midland Route were named for English stockholders.
Members of the Rathbone family as well as William Lidderdale, governor of the Bank of England, paid visits to Aspen and Glenwood Springs to check on their investments. During their visits they toured their mining interests, reviewed the progress of Devereux’s Glenwood Springs development, and traveled on the Colorado Midland Railway. However, for more consistent reporting upon the holdings, a representative was needed. In Glenwood Springs, that person was Hervey Lyle.
Felton Hervey James Acheson Lyle was born in Londonderry, Ireland, and was a member of the Rathbone family. He came to Glenwood Springs in 1886, purchasing numerous properties during the real estate boom in Glenwood Springs in 1887. At Ivanhoe, near the base of Hagerman Pass, he and his brother Frank operated a sawmill. They were also coal merchants. Lyle became president of the Glenwood Light and Water Co. and later manager of the Glenwood Hot Springs Co., both enterprises receiving heavy Rathbone Bros. & Co. investment. Undoubtedly his influence and insight helped Walter Devereux in July 1891 obtain $500,000 (more than $10 million in 2016 dollars) in financing from English investors to build the Hotel Colorado and to improve the hot springs facilities.
While English capital created the economic base for Glenwood Springs, as the 20th century dawned, some citizens became disenchanted with the English stockholders. Rates citizens and businesses were charged for water, and policies regarding admission to the hot springs pool were just some of the cause for unrest. Convinced of continued litigation over its water holdings, on June 1, 1914, the stockholders of the Glenwood Light and Water Co. voted in favor of selling its waterworks to the city of Glenwood Springs.
This sale visibly marked the beginning of the exit of English investment in Glenwood Springs. A shift in the global economy, the start of World War I, and new generations at the helm of Rathbone Bros. & Co. added to the exit. The passing of Hervey Lyle in 1912 created a void in the connection between England and Glenwood Springs, and Walter Devereux dedicated more of his time away from the community he created. After World War I, the Colorado Midland Railway went into receivership and was scrapped. Local businessmen and stockholders became owners of the Hotel Colorado and Glenwood Hot Springs Pool.
English investors taking a chance on Glenwood Springs nurtured our community from infancy to early adulthood. It is because of them that Walter Devereux’s extraordinary vision was made an enduring reality. It is because of the foundations of the past that the resort of Glenwood Springs is still possible today and into the future.
Willa Kane is former archivist of and a current volunteer with the Glenwood Springs Historical Society and Frontier Historical 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.
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