It’s About Time column: Iron Mountain Hot Springs continues a long tradition along Colorado River
Iron Mountain Hot Springs is the newest hot springs in Glenwood — but since 1896, there have been six previous owners of this site along the Colorado River.
By choosing a different name for their financial gamble, each new owner put their own brand on one of the oldest commodities in the world — water. Here at the Frontier Museum, we uncovered these names for the Iron Mountain Hot Springs: West Glenwood Health Spa (or West Glenwood Hot Springs), Wash Allen’s Bathhouse, the West Glenwood Mineral Baths, Iron Springs Spa, Fort Defiance Bathhouse, Glenwood Health Spa and Gamba Mineral Springs.
What the original inhabitants — the Ute Indians — called this hot spring is lost to history.
Also lost to history are all the buildings at the site before development of the modern Iron Mountain Hot Springs. One photo from the May 10, 1985, Glenwood Post shows a small indoor “bath” lined with concrete and bricks labeled, “Iron Springs … an old-fashioned spa in the Rockies.”
The largest of those previous buildings that no longer exist was the residence of Garfield County Sheriff R.M. Ware. Ware purchased 20 acres on which he developed the original hot springs starting in 1896.
The Avalanche Echo, in its Sept. 17, 1896, edition, had this to say about the three-story house: “When completed, will be one of the finest in every respect, to be found in Garfield County … Mr. Ware will not spare money in making his residence a thing of beauty and a joy forever.”
Known as the “Big Red Mansion,” it did not last forever. One hundred years after being built it was considered to have deteriorated too much to make restoration cost-effective and was torn down.
Current property owners Steve and Jeanne Beckley and Mogli and Coop Cooper have made a significant investment in building a completely modern facility. Iron Mountain Hot Springs adds one more reason for tourists to visit our resort community.
That would be in keeping with the 1955 Saturday Evening Post’s description of the spa at the time as one of the “places to go” in Colorado.
You could become a part of history yourself if you have any photographs of the Iron Mountain Hot Springs from years past. By sharing your photos of the hot springs with the Frontier Museum, we will scan your pictures in high resolution and provide you with a copy.
Appropriate credit will be given whenever the images are used. Or you can donate your original photos outright to the Frontier Museum, which allows us to make a modest profit whenever the photos are purchased.
Currently, the museum is helping the Iron Mountain Hot Springs staff pull together information for interpretive signs at the facility. Signs also telling how geothermal activity along the Colorado River has shaped our sense of place will help people understand where we as a community belong in history.
History is important to Colorado tourism. For that reason all of Glenwood’s hot springs, along with 16 other historic hot springs around the state, pulled together to showcase their “Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop” tour. Check it out at Colorado.com/hotspringsloop.
I recommend making some history of your own in our relaxing waters.
NOTE: My apology for the error in my last column. I cited the owners of the Yampah Spa Vapor Caves as Patsy Steele and Brice Kendal, when in fact Steele is the sole owner.
This is a monthly column on history by the Glenwood Historical Society’s executive director.
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