Glenwood fought for a municipal water system
Registrar, Frontier Historical Society and Museum
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
“We have been paying over and over again for those gold bricks and they are not worth a fig in a fire.”
” Avalanche Echo, April 16, 1908
Archie Farley and Pete Dapro, along with Chief Bryant of Glenwood Springs’ Fire Department, performed an inspection of every fire hydrant in the city in the spring of 1908. Their findings only intensified the call for municipal ownership of the town’s water system.
Glenwood Springs founder Isaac Cooper was the first to win a contract to furnish the town, its residents and businesses with water. His September 1887 contract gave Cooper a 20-year franchise. For firefighting, Cooper’s company would provide a hose cart, 600 feet of hose, 10 double discharge anti-freezing hydrants, and free water. To beautify the town, his contract permitted four hours of free lawn watering each day, and provided free water for street sprinkling. The town would have an option in 15 years to purchase the water system at a price set by four arbitrators.
With his death in December 1887, Cooper had no opportunity to fulfill the contract. That same month, Walter Devereux, along with a number of British investors, founded the Glenwood Light and Water Co. This private corporation received the contract to supply electrical power and water to the city. However, Cooper’s liberal allowance of free water usage for city betterment was not shared by the new corporation.
A movement began toward municipal ownership of the water system in the early 1900s. In 1907, the town of Glenwood Springs legally challenged the Glenwood Light and Water Co.’s rights to the water flowing down Grizzly Creek. However, because of the improvements made by the company to both No Name and Grizzly Creeks, a District Court ruling that December upheld the Glenwood Light and Water Co.’s legal right to the water.
The sting of the District Court’s ruling carried into 1908, and into the fire hydrant inspection. Thirteen of the town’s hydrants, all under the charge of the Glenwood Light and Water Co., were found in poor condition. With leaking caps, broken bases, inaccessibility, and lack of hydrants in newer residential areas, the Avalanche Echo newspaper took issue with the company. Because the town paid the company about $250 per month for services, the newspaper pointed out safety concerns and screamed for fiscal responsibility.
Hervey Lyle, manager of the Glenwood Light and Water Co., promised swift action with the hiring of a man to inspect and test each hydrant once per month. Many citizens, however, were disappointed when town council members took Lyle upon his word and filed Chief Bryant’s report with no other action.
A Supreme Court ruling upheld the Glenwood Light and Water Co.’s rights to Grizzly Creek water. However, an economic decline in Europe prompted the company’s British investors to sell the water portion of the company to the town of Glenwood Springs. Glenwood Springs finally acquired its own water system in 1914, at a price of $110,000.
“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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