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It’s About Time history photo: Glenwood’s little slice of Swiss architecture

It’s About Time: An early Glenwood mail carrier

Glenwood Historical Society referred to Financial Advisory Board for additional funding

The Glenwood Springs Historical Society has requested an additional $60,000 from the city budget just to stay open.

“We are not talking about excess, we are talking about keeping the lights on,” Historical Society board member Nick Daly said. “Insufficient funding is a realistic and immediate threat to our existence.”

Although the Historical Society requested $60,000 in additional funds as a bare minimum, City Council voted unanimously Nov. 17 to let the city’s Financial Advisory Board decide necessary funds from the Acquisitions and Improvements (A&I) fund that won’t take away from other projects that might require higher urgency. 

Councilmember Tony Hershey, a history major in college, said he wanted nothing more than to support the Historical Society better, but felt this would be better hashed out with the city’s appointed financial advisors. 

“I think this is more appropriate for the Financial Advisory Board,” Hershey said, motioning for the matter to be taken to the advisory board.

Councilmember Marco Dehm seconded, and Mayor Jonathan Godes changed the motion to let the advisory board decide to prioritize the amount necessary to be taken from the A&I fund. 

“They know if they take $100,000 out of A&I what street projects won’t get done, what youth programs won’t get funded, and they need to weigh that,” Godes said. 

He said that the current motion was too black and white, either funding the full amount or no funding at all. 

“I think if we restate the motion to say, give us advice and ask for increased funding,” Godes said. 

Each year, the Glenwood Springs Historical Society aggressively pursues grant funding, said Executive Director Bill Kight. But much of that funding is used for its larger-scale projects like restoring the Cardiff Coke Ovens.

Bill Kight

The Historical Society receives a revenue of about $87,000 throughout the year. That helps to pay staff, including Kight, who is due for a salary raise to $65,000 without benefits. 

“By comparison, the executive director of the Aspen Historical Society has a compensation package of over $118,000,” Daly said.  

Kight added that the only person qualified to replace him as a historian works at Whole Foods with better pay and benefits and is unwilling to leave that. 

“All would be gone if we are not funded at the appropriate level of $120,000, which is the minimum amount necessary to enable us to continue operations,” Daly said.

Daly said that the Frontier Museum and the Historical Society require the additional funds for necessary expenses like the salary raise, average expenses and larger repairs to the museum itself. 

“The building is in dire need of repairs, new roof, foundation issues and a need for a new sewer line,” Daly said. 

The Historical Society has 124 paying members, and serves about 6,000 to 10,000 people a year with its various programs, he said. 

“Without us, there would be no more Doc Holiday Collection, no more Ghost Walk, no more work done on the Cardiff Coke Ovens,” Daly said. 

The Financial Advisory Board is scheduled to meet on Dec. 7.

Post Independent reporter Cassandra Ballard can be reached at cballard@postindependent.com or 970-384-9131.

It’s About Time: The Old Farmers Flour Mill on the Roaring Fork

‘It’s About Time’ for historical society’s Ghost Walk

New state grant sought for Cardiff coke ovens preservation

The Glenwood Springs Historical Society is going after a different grant to help fund restoration efforts at the historic Cardiff coke ovens and make improvements to the site in south Glenwood.

Efforts to obtain a $500,000 “Save America’s Treasures” grant through the National Park Service in 2021 were unsuccessful. 

So, the Historical Society is now going after a $250,000 History Colorado grant, which comes from state gaming tax funds, to try to make the project a reality, Executive Director Bill Kight informed the Garfield County commissioners Tuesday.

Commissioners agreed to recommit their $50,000 support for the project from county Conservation Trust funds toward the effort.

The Historical Society has sent a letter of intent to apply for the grant to the state officials who oversee the program.

“They came out and looked at the coke ovens, and we feel like we have a good chance of getting these funds,” Kight said.

The proposed project would involve cleaning up some graffiti and other vandalism that occurred at the site along Airport Road last fall, and to clear some of the oak brush from the area and build a lighted parking area for visitors.

Signage would also be installed to explain the historical significance of the site.

The historic Cardiff coke ovens are located in south Glenwood Springs on Airport Road.
Provided/Glenwood Springs Historical Society

The coke ovens were among the many scattered around the Roaring Fork and Crystal river valleys and used in the late 1800s and early 1900s to cook coal from area mines and turn it into coke. The coked coal was then used in the steel-making process. 

Cardiff at that time was a bustling rail stop, which was built in support of the mining town of Sunlight in the nearby Four Mile Creek valley.

The project has earned matching fund support from the city of Glenwood Springs, also for $50,000, and the Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District, which granted $140,000 last spring to build a handicapped-accessible path to the coke ovens site.

The Historical Society has also put up $10,000 in matching funds for the project.

Kight said the coke ovens could become a popular mini-attraction for Glenwood Springs once the site is preserved and access improved, especially if the South Bridge route connection to Colorado Highway 82 is built.

“Once that road gets built, it’s either an eyesore or it’s an attraction, and we’d like for it to be an attraction,” he said at the Tuesday commissioners meeting.

Kight said his organization also plans to go before Glenwood Springs City Council in October with a request for more funding in general to go toward historic preservation efforts.

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

Glenwood Springs’ Western Hotel completely gutted, but face should remain the same

Although the Western Hotel in downtown Glenwood Springs is currently just sitting as a facade, construction continues, and one day some residents should be able to call it home.  

The Western Hotel, 716 Cooper Ave., currently sits as a hollowed shell of the historical building it once was; not to say that the project did not try to keep the building’s integrity. 

“Our idea originally was to keep as much of the existing wall as possible,” said project developer Candace Whipple.

Whipple said she planned to keep the front masonry, along with the first 45 feet into the alley, to preserve the historical aspects of the building, but after demolition started, they found that the alley wall had been constructed with different types of masonry and brick, and was considered to not be structurally sound. 

The previous hotel space is slated to eventually be a housing complex with 11 studio and one-bedroom apartments. The plan also includes the addition of a third floor, but keeping the original facade of the hotel front. 

“Given the current condition of the wall, there was graffiti, and there’s different materials used within that wall,” Whipple said. “We decided to take it down, and when we took it down, we realized that we had to change the foundation of it, and that’s why we’re presenting the license.”

The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016. Changes to the structure require review and approval of a Landmark Alteration Certificate by the Historic Preservation Commission, according to a presentation on the City Council agenda. 

The project was approved on March 1, 2021, with the applicant’s intent to preserve and restore the first 45 feet of the brick wall going into the alley. The back half of the building was constructed with concrete and not considered historic. Only the brick masonry was considered historic.

“What they did instead was proposed a new wall,” said Trent Hyatt, senior Glenwood Springs city planner. “Final specs will be determined by the Historic Preservation Commission, but that wall, to be structurally sound, includes a foundation with a footer that will encroach up to six inches subgrade into that alley.” 

It’s not uncommon for the city to allow right of way encroachment.

“I mean, we actually do these all over the core downtown,” City Attorney Karl Hanlon said. “You know, we even have some provisions for them depending on how big they are. We approved them administratively. It’s a zero lot line environment, and so oftentimes, especially on subgrade footers, we have to do these.”

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.