Vapor Cave No. 3: ‘hygienic Hades’
Walter Devereux’s vision for the development of Glenwood Springs was complex. In 1888, he had supplied electricity and water to the town and completed the development of the hot springs pool. In 1890, he finished construction of the elegant stone bath house on the pool’s grounds. And in 1893, the grand Hotel Colorado would be opened to the public. There was just one element preventing Glenwood Springs from becoming a world-class health resort. It was a vapor cave.When white settlers came in the early 1880s to what would become Glenwood Springs, they found a natural sweat cave on the south side of the Colorado River. This cave, originally utilized by the Utes, was also used by the early white residents to cure their ailments. In 1887, this natural cave was sealed, and a new cave was drilled 100 feet west of this original site. This new cave, known as Vapor Cave No. 2, was soon expanded and a brick bath house constructed to accommodate patrons.Devereux, however, wanted a modern vapor cave on the north side of the Colorado River. This cave, later known as Vapor Cave No. 3, would tie together the lodging, recreation and health opportunities he was creating there. In 1892, Devereux’s workers began cutting chambers into the mountainside, tapping into the hot springs sealed within the rock. Contractor William Dougan began construction of the 150-foot-long brick vapor cave building in 1895, as designed by Denver architects Varian and Sterner. The building contained partitioned dressing rooms and an elevator to transport the patrons to the caves below. Also in the interior, red and white colored tile work, electric chandeliers, a fountain and a lounging room domed with cathedral glass provided visitors with the feel of modern elegance.When Vapor Cave No. 3 opened in March 1896, it was described as a “Palace in H-!” However, it was a place where “demon pain takes its flight” and a place that secured Glenwood Springs’ place as a world-class health resort.”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.
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