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A humble baseball field became Vogelaar Park

Frontier DiaryWilla SoncartyGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

A single act can change the course of history. And so it was, that when Elisha Cravens committed Glenwood Springs’ first murder in 1885, he put into motion the creation of a baseball field that would become known today as Vogelaar Park.Cravens’ property was a large tract of land located west of the Glenwood Springs city limits. Cravens farmed the land, but a portion of the property at the west end of Eighth Street, with or without Cravens’ consent, had been converted to a baseball field. To satisfy his mounting legal bills, Cravens’ property was sold in July 1897 to Chicago businessman Jay Morton. The baseball field was part of the sale.Baseball generated tourist dollars in Glenwood Springs, and, despite the field’s sale, the 1897 baseball season continued there. On Nov. 1, 500 spectators watched an exhibition game by two professional teams – the Baltimores and the All Americans – at the field now called the “Glenwood Grounds.”Jay Morton allowed free use of the grounds, requiring only that the city of Glenwood Springs pay one-half of the property taxes or rebate those taxes to him each year. With this arrangement, the field hosted not only community baseball games, but also football games and track meets. By the 1920s, the field’s use expanded to include rodeos. On July 20, 1926, silent film star Tom Mix, who was in Glenwood Springs filming “The Great K. & A. Train Robbery,” hosted a rodeo at the grounds, now known as a park. Along with some of the country’s best rodeo performers, Mix himself dazzled the crowd with trick roping and exhibition stunts before an estimated 6,000 spectators.In March 1930, Glenwood Springs’ School District No. 1 purchased the grounds from the Morton Estate. The city of Glenwood Springs then leased the property from the school district for continued use as a park. The city constructed a spectators’ grandstand in April of 1931 which remained until its demolition in April 1995.The park remained nameless until August 1974. By joint proclamation by the City Council and school district Re-1, the park was named the Dean Vogelaar Park, who had passed away the previous month while serving as manager of the Glenwood Springs Chamber of Commerce.If Elisha Cravens had not committed crimes that forced the sale of his land, his property may have been put to other uses. Instead, his murderous deed possibly gave our community a place to enjoy hours of recreation.”Frontier Diary” is provided to the Post Independent by the Frontier Historical Society and Museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Winter hours are 1-4 p.m. Monday and Thursday through Saturday. For more information, call 945-4448.


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