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Red Mountain cross began as simple reminder

Frontier DiaryWilla SoncartyRegistrar, Frontier Historical Society and MuseumGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Frontier Historical Society/Schutte Collection phoThe Red Mountain cross illuminates the sky during a torchlight run at the Red Mountain Ski Area in December 1957. The cross was originally created in December 1951 by employees of the Glenwood Springs Electric Department as a holiday greeting and a symbol of community goodwill.
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The death of a black man brought the birth of a Glenwood Springs tradition.William Grandstaff had not been seen in town for many weeks in the summer of 1901. A prospector leading a solitary life, Grandstaff mined for gold on his claims west of town. Concerned about his absence, a friend climbed to the top of Red Mountain, where he found the prospector dead within his cabin. Legend says that a cross was fashioned from a tree to mark Grandstaff’s grave and as a reminder to the community of the old black gentleman. In time, the elements took their toll on the cross, eventually bringing the memorial to the ground.Decades later, the spirit of goodwill filled five men of the Glenwood Springs Electric Department. Leonard Blotiaux, Paul Williams, Gordon Halford, Jay Simpson and Gene Stromberg were filled with inspiration as the holiday season of 1951 grew closer. They envisioned a lighted holiday symbol illuminating the night sky, beaming high on Red Mountain above Glenwood Springs.They began the construction of a star, but found the design impractical. Instead, they built a simple 40- by 18-foot wooden cross, laden with lights. The construction, however, proved simpler than the installation.Heavy snow began to fall installation eve. By morning, the access to the city property on Red Mountain was covered in thigh-deep snow. The men loaded the cross and necessary equipment upon a toboggan. Four hours of pulling later, they finally arrived at their destination.As winter darkness enveloped the valley the night of Dec. 14, 1951, residents were awed by the glow of the cross. One hundred and ten lamps, 40 watts each, glowed a holiday greeting to the town. The electrical power for that first lighting was supplied by an electric line from the Red Mountain ski tow.In time, the original lighted cross was replaced, and the new structure moved higher up on city property on Red Mountain. In 1991, a challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union forced the removal of the cross from city property. The nonprofit Red Mountain Preservation Society rebuilt the cross – making it larger – and moved the structure to private property on Red Mountain, making it more visible from town.Although vandals attempted to destroy the cross in 1998, this symbol of goodwill has always been rebuilt, illuminating the night sky at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Additionally, it united the community and paid honor to the 14 firefighters lost in the Storm King Fire of 1994.”A community effort has made sure that local residents and those who visit our town during the holidays know that people here wish to communicate a message of peace, caring, brotherhood, and perhaps even spiritual redemption,” wrote Dennis Webb of the Red Mountain Cross in 1994. This message, whether the cross be that simple memorial to William Grandstaff in 1901 or the lighted beacon of today, remains true.”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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