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It’s About Time feature photo: Grand Avenue Suicide Ride

Glenwood Springs Historical Society photo

It’s About Time feature photo: Outside the Odeon Theater

The northern facade of the Odeon Theater, 312 Seventh Street, circa 1920 (during prohibition). The front of the building is covered with event posters and a sandwich board is placed at left advertising dancing until midnight. The stone front pillars are partially covered with signage reading “Odeon” and “Dancing.” Two men, dressed in suits, are standing on the steps leading into the entrance. The man on the right is identified as Ernest Rowe, and the man on left is George Weirick. The site housed the Glenwood Eagles Club for several decades, and is now KC’s Wing House.
Glenwood Springs Historical Society photo

It’s About Time column: The pleasures of teaching young minds about history

Bill Kight

There’s a word that keeps coming to mind that doesn’t seem to be used much anymore. Perhaps it’s because the world continues to present us with some rather harsh realities of life with pandemics, wars, school shootings …

Has the word magic lost its magic? Not if you watch young children as they tour our Frontier Museum at 1001 Colorado Ave.

This time of year when school is about to enter summer break, we book class tours with teachers throughout the valley.

Since we can only accommodate 20 visitors at a time, half the tour goes upstairs with either archivist Carolyn Cipperly or office wizard Sharon Haller, and I take kids through the downstairs, which is one of my favorite jobs: teaching young minds about history.

It often starts with the old, big, bulky Victrola in the first room of our 100-plus-year-old Shumate House. Victrola became the generic term for any brand of early turntable phonographs.

Eyes light up when you tell kids how it works. “You have to turn the hand crank on the side. Go ahead and try yourself,” is my usual answer.

We usually pass quickly through the next room in the museum, the dining room. It seems there is more interest in food itself than where it is consumed.

The first thing noticed in the kitchen is the not-very-attractive but very utilitarian ice box. I tell my captive audience that without electricity (which at one time must have been considered magic), ice was used to keep food from spoiling.

You can see the wheels turning in their young brains, when they learn that Glenwood Springs had an icehouse at one time. As I pass around the ice tongs that were used to carry the ice, and we talk about how saws were used to cut the ice from lakes, history works its magic.

A very old telephone is on the kitchen wall; one that you had to crank by hand. Children who have never seen anything but a cell phone seem genuinely surprised at such a thing as having to stand still, speak into a mouthpiece, and hold a funny black thing to your ear while remembering to use the crank.

In the big room upstairs it’s always fun showing people of all ages the direct connection our community has with President Theodore Roosevelt.

There is a picture of the president on a white horse to the right of the display of a saddle. It’s not just any saddle, it’s the saddle TR rode when he came to the Glenwood area to go bear hunting in 1905.

Sometimes we tour guides change places, and I take the students upstairs and begin telling the story of the saddle being made for the president by Rifle saddle maker William R. Thompson. The saddle was then given to one of the guides that accompanied Teddy on his bear hunt. It was kept in the Stephens family over the years, and they loaned it to the museum to bring history alive through its display.

One of the last stops on tours is upstairs at the arrowhead collection from a private ranch. It seems to produce magical thoughts in excitable young minds. Though the exhibit isn’t displayed like a big fancy museum would display the artifacts, it nonetheless allows the imagination to think back to what it was when the Ute Indians lived freely in their homeland.

Some local adults who revisit the Frontier Museum tell us with a smile how they vividly remember coming here as kids and now they bring their children.

The magic lives on. Sometimes the trigger is the object and sometimes the story conjures up our ability to remove ourselves from our world and place ourselves in the past’s ever-moving stream of history.

After all, isn’t it magical when we allow ourselves to become time travelers?

Bill Kight is executive director of the Glenwood Springs Historical Society. About Time appears monthly in the Post Independent.

It’s About Time historical photo: Roll out the barrel

Rolling out the barrel meant just that when this turn-of-the-century (20th, that is) picture was taken in front of Ed. S. Hughes Liquors in the 800 block of Grand Avenue. The storefront later hosted Benedeck's Furniture, Top Drawer Office Supplies and, from 2011 to 2021, the offices of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. The White Elk Museum and Taxidermy shop is on the left. Jake Schwarz’s Furniture and Undertaking is center foreground. The gentleman standing at the left of group on the sidewalk was Ed Hughes, owner of the liquor and bottling establishment.
Provided by Glenwood Springs Historical Society

Historic Glenwood coke ovens, waterworks projects among Garfield County FMLD spring grants

Two of the Cardiff Coke Ovens located in south Glenwood Springs near the Airport.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Efforts to restore and protect the historic Cardiff coke ovens in Glenwood Springs got a funding boost in the latest round of Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District grants.

That along with major waterworks projects in Silt, Parachute and Battlement Mesa and new paved trails in New Castle were among the top recipients in the FMLD spring grant cycle announced recently.

The coke ovens grant is part of a larger funding effort that’s underway to better preserve and protect the structures near the Glenwood Springs Airport.

The ovens were used by the former Colorado Fuel and Iron Co. in the late 1890s to produce thousands of tons of coke (cooked coal) used in steel and iron production, according to historical accounts.

Efforts to preserve the collection of ovens have been undertaken by the Glenwood Springs Historical Society and the city of Glenwood Springs. The ovens are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Cardiff Coke Ovens are located in south Glenwood Springs near the airport.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

The project would involve installation of a new parking area and lighting to provide better security at the site.

Some of the ovens have been damaged over the years by weather elements and, in recent years, by vandalism — including two instances last year.

The Historical Society and the city have been lining up matching funds to support a grant request of up to $500,000 from the National Park Service Save America’s Treasures grant program. The city has agreed to match $50,000 for the project.

Nearly $1.3 million in FMLD grants were awarded for the spring cycle, including approximately $1.1 million in traditional grants and $186,819 awarded through the Mini Grant Program.

Grant funds are derived from mineral leasing on federal public lands in Garfield County.

Since its inception in 2011, the Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District board of directors has awarded 287 grants totaling $29.2 million, including $90,000 in Grantee of the Year awards.

Garfield County FMLD spring grant awards

Traditional Grants

Battlement Mesa Metropolitan District, water meter automation: $121,560

Colorado River Board of Cooperative Education Services, EPIC Program: $100,000

Colorado River Fire Protection District, hydraulic rescue equipment: $98,250

City of Glenwood Springs, historic coke ovens site improvements: $140,000

Grand Valley Fire Protection District, communications enhancement: $35,000

Town of New Castle, solid surface trails: $132,000

Parachute Battlement Parks and Recreation District, Rec Center irrigation: $98,700

Town of Parachute, water line loop: $101,370

Silt Water Conservancy, maintenance equipment: $66,424

Town of Silt, water main boring: $200,000

Mini Grant awards

Battlement Mesa Metropolitan District, heavy duty dump trailer: $22,336

Colorado River Fire Protection District, rescue equipment: $24,976

Grand Valley Fire Protection District, remote communications: $24,829

Town of New Castle, Town Hall flooring: $25,000

Parachute Battlement Parks and Recreation District, Rec Center lighting: $25,000

Town of Parachute, Public Works vehicle: $25,000

Silt Water Conservancy, Rifle Gap Dam Repair: $14,678

Town of Silt, Town Hall HVAC: $25,000

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

It’s About Time: A slice of Grand Avenue history

Before, August 1961

The Glenwood Springs Historical Society shared this before-and-after set of photos from the Grand Avenue tree clearcut. In the summer of 1961, the large cottonwood trees lining South Grand Avenue were cut down in order to widen the road. These photos were taken in front of Sayre Park. It’s believed they were taken by longtime local newspaperman, the late Al Maggard.

After, September 1961

It’s About Time: Upcoming author interview allows for some local historical reflection

Bill Kight

The cave opening was so narrow that we had to enter one at a time, feet first, dragging our packs behind us while twisting and wiggling our bodies to fit through the small tunnel. Soon we were in a room big enough that we could stand comfortably.

It had been a few years since I’d gone caving. I took a deep breath of air that smelled like the dirt of a freshly dug garden.

“This is where the gate will have to go,” I said, as we put on our packs. Our headlamps were already on our hard hats from the long night hike to the cave. We started walking down the cold, damp main passage.

There were many dead-end side passages. At times the side walls became so constricted that in order to pass we turned sideways.

When the cave did occasionally open up, we were scrambling and crawling over formations that were the size of a VW bug, fallen from the ceiling.

We stopped a quarter-mile inside the earth where the 8,000-year-old Ancient One had been discovered. We had work to do.

The three spelunkers who had been exploring for new caves had done the right thing. They had reported their surprising find to the regional Denver office, who gave them my contact information as the local archaeologist in the White River National Forest.

When we first met in Glenwood Springs, the spelunkers were hesitant. They really didn’t want to hear: “Thank you for reporting this. You can go home now. … Your government’s got this.”

Instead, we formed a team that included them. Eventually that team comprised 21 people, including physical and forensic anthropologists, three archaeologists, a representative from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, a radiologist, a cartographer to map the cave, a geologist to do the stratigraphy, a geomorphologist, two speleologists, a cave-gating specialist, a biologist and a Canadian archaeologist. All would volunteer their time.

My job as coordinator/liaison would be like herding cats.

The Canadian archaeologist was brought in to take samples of more than 50 smudge marks left on the cave walls for carbon fourteen (C14) dating. It was only after we started questioning how this ancient individual made it that far into the cave that we began finding the smudge marks.

They were at a height that a raised pine tar torch would make when held in a person’s hand.

For me, the most exciting part of this once-in-a-lifetime experience was obtaining the results of the mitochondrial DNA from the Ancient One, after a difficult and time-consuming extraction and analysis.

One of the four major clusters of DNA lineages found in Native Americans was sequenced from our sample. Our individual was related to the modern Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast, the Nuu-Chah-Nulth and the Yakima; Mesoamerica’s Maya Indians; and the Yanomama, the largest relatively isolated tribe in South America.

Back in 1988 when our Ancient One was found, only the mitochondrial DNA, passed from mother to offspring, could be sequenced.

What was this Mayan doing in a cave above 10,500 feet in the southern Rocky Mountains? We may never know.

What we did discover, from the analysis of the partial skeletal remains in the cave, was that the individual was a male in his early 40s and he stood 5-feet-4-inches. The outer layers of both shinbones were abnormally thick, indicating a great deal of hiking and climbing in the mountains.

When we came out of the cave, the sun was coming up. But I had no idea what light would illuminate many future discoveries of the Ancient Ones.

Author Jennifer Raff’s new work, “Origin, A Genetic History of the Americas.”
Courtesy photo

A lot has happened in genetic research of First Americans over the past 34 years.

So it’s with gratitude that I will interview Jennifer Raff, bestselling author of the revolutionary new work “Origin, A Genetic History of the Americas,” at 4 p.m. Monday, March 14, on KDNK.

Jennifer Raff, author of the new work, “Origin, A Genetic History of the Americas,” will be interviewed by the Glenwood Springs Historical Society’s Bill Kight at 4 p.m. Monday, March 14, on community radio station KDNK.
Glenwood Springs Historical Society/Courtesy photo

Join us. It’s exciting stuff.

Bill Kight is executive director of the Glenwood Springs Historical Society. About Time appears monthly in the Post Independent.

It’s About Time: Mea culpa! Here’s the deal with that boat in the Glenwood pool photo

Bill Kight

I had to fire myself from one of my jobs. It was an easy decision to make, as you will soon see.

Last month this space featured a photo of a speedboat in the Hot Springs Pool. Trying to fill the “It’s About Time” space from home over the Christmas holidays so as not to wait until the last minute seemed like a good idea.

The way it works is one month you will see this column and in alternate months, a historic photo with a caption. Not having full access to the Frontier Museum’s archives, I mistakenly relied on the date within the photo title for the year it was taken.

It turns out the date with the photo was when it was donated to the museum and not the date photographed.

It would have been wise of me to check with folks at the pool to see what they knew about the photo. After a couple of spiked eggnogs, being wise was not in the cards.

To add insult to injury I rather tipsily typed in the wrong phone number for people to call if they knew anything about the photo, as an attempt to engage people with history.

I’m not sure what business or individual got phone calls from people with information about the photo. But whoever you are please come by the museum and get a free tour for your troubles.

When I returned to the museum and checked my email there was a message from Kjell Mitchell, Glenwood Hot Springs Pool president and CEO.

Why I didn’t call Kjell in the first place is beyond me. He had the right information about the photo as to when it was taken and that the speedboat was in the pool as a stunt.

Kjell also sent an attachment of the cover page of the 125th celebration booklet and two pages in which the photo appeared entitled “pool stunts.” Kjell suggested the photo is from the 1950s.

Accuracy is important when dealing with the past. There is a fancy word for keeping proper records for items in museums. It’s called provenance, the place of origin or earliest known history of something.

Notice the word prove is part of the word provenance. A museum item is not considered authentic unless you can prove through adequate records where it came from, the date of the object, who owned it first and who donated it.

It’s frustrating to have artifacts and photos in the collection that have no information with them.

Unfortunately, we have lots of orphaned material with the context missing and the provenance forever lost to history.

It takes time, and lots of it, plus money to keep proper records of the Frontier Museum’s collection.

To keep good records the museum has a software program called PastPerfect. Thanks to funding from Alpine Bank’s chairman and chief executive, the J. Robert Young Foundation has enabled us to input items important to history, such as the Storm King Fire material.

Because of our faithful volunteers helping type items into PastPerfect, we can steadily bring our collection records up to date.

Staff members Carolyn Cipperly and Sharon Haller deservingly gave me grief over the pool photo fiasco. I should have asked for help to make sure the correct information was properly researched for the speedboat photo.

The solution? I fired myself from doing the photos for “It’s About Time” and assigned archivist Carolyn to take over the job.

It’s a relief to have one less thing to do.

Mea culpa! Mea culpa! This spectacularly slothful sin against history will not be committed by me again.

By the way, the correct number for the Frontier Museum is 970-945-4448.

Bill Kight is the executive director for the Glenwood Springs Historical Society and can also be reached at history@rof.net.

It’s About Time: Historical photo info sought

This photo in the Frontier Museum archives of a motorboat and water skier in the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool was acquired by the museum in 1986. However, they have no more information as to when it might have been taken, and what the event was all about. If anyone remembers, let the museum know by emailing history@rof.net or calling 970-945-4448. (Note: this information and the date reference has been corrected from a version that appeared in print in the Wednesday, Jan. 5 edition of the Post Independent)
Glenwood Springs Historical Society archive photo

It’s About Time column: If only the trainmen could tell the story

Bill Kight

There is something about the photo that haunts me.

The locomotive is a steam engine from the late 1800s. It’s almost completely out of the engine house and ready to go to work. The crew of 15 men are posing for the camera and positioned in various places.

Six men are on the ground. One stands to the side of the “cow catcher” and has a large satchel in his left hand. Next is a man in coveralls standing next to the first small wheel with his right hand on the cylinder.

The next man to the right — perhaps not sure what to do with his hands — has them behind his back. One man is barely taller than the huge wheel that makes the train go when the large piston moves back and forth.

The rest of the workers are all over this behemoth of a machine. Some have mustaches. All have hats of various styles.

Their clothes are the kind working men wear no matter what century they are from … a sort of timelessness. Perhaps it is the fact that we know nothing about them collectively or individually that haunts me.

Train crew in Cardiff, Colorado, circa late 1800s.
Frontier Historical Society/Courtesy photo

What we do know is where this photo was taken. It’s Cardiff, Colorado, a coal coking town a few miles south of Glenwood Springs. We know the town was established in December 137 years ago. And we know the coke ovens that operated in Cardiff ceased production in 1915.

There are more questions about the men than there are answers: What are their names, ages, nationalities; what personalities and temperaments did they have; are their descendants living among us today?

And what about the locomotive? Did it bring the coal on the Colorado Midland line from the mines up Four Mile and Sunlight? Or did it take the coke the ovens produced through the Hagerman Tunnel on the Continental Divide, and on to the Pueblo steel mills?

There are only a handful of photos of Cardiff and the coke ovens in the Frontier Museum’s photo archives, and of all of them, this one adds to the mystery of history.

The single thing that bothers me the most is the fact that the stories these men could tell died with them. And whether it is the storyteller in me or the historian’s years of training, the task of telling their story — the story of Cardiff and its coke ovens — has fallen to me.

It has become more than a job or a short-lived obsession, it’s more like a calling. The coke ovens call me, and I take it personally.

Only 50 of the original 249 ovens still exist. Almost all of the town of Cardiff has been wiped off the face of the earth.

These forgotten men, and that part of their life story the coke ovens can tell, deserve better treatment than what the passing of time has dealt them.

This is where the National Park Service comes in. This week the historical society will turn in its Save America’s Treasures grant application, to compete for $500,000 to try to bring a part of our history back to life.

Why the National Park Service? Because they are the mechanism that distributes the funds Congress has set aside for those National Register of Historic Places sites that need help, like the coke ovens.

The letters of commitment for funds from the city of Glenwood Springs and Garfield County are only the start. The hard part comes if we are fortunate enough to receive funding. We won’t know until early summer whether our application is a winner.

Then, bricklayers experienced in historic construction will lay bricks to stabilize the ovens. Rocky Mountain Youth Corps will clear brush that has hidden the work of vandals. Historicorps, the volunteer group experienced in saving historic sites, will also help.

In the meantime, I can’t shake the feeling that those 15 men are watching me through an old photo.

Bill Kight is the Executive Director for the Glenwood Springs Historical Society and can be reached at 970-945-4448 or history@rof.net