Glenwood Springs history

President Theodore Roosevelt near Glenwood Springs
President Theodore Roosevelt returns from bear hunting near Glenwood Springs in 1905. He stayed at the Hotel Colorado during his visit. | Photo by Underwood and Underwood

Staff writer

As in Idaho Springs, it was the hot springs that first attracted European settlers to Glenwood Springs. The town’s first citizen, James Landis, bought the hot springs site and set up for business. The tent town, officially founded in 1885, was populated by miners, gamblers, prostitutes, shopkeepers and outlaws. They all settled in where the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers meet, about 180 miles west of Denver.

The town was originally and perhaps more accurately named Defiance, but as a sop to town founder Isaac Cooper’s homesick wife, the name was changed to remind her of her hometown of Glenwood, Iowa.

Gunslinger and dentist John Henry “Doc” Holliday came to the town, perhaps hoping for a reprieve from health issues brought on by altitude lung damage, alcohol and laudanum abuse. He died there in 1887 at the age of 36 and is reportedly buried in Linwood Cemetery.

Also in 1887, a narrow-gauge train track snaked through the Glenwood Canyon and “laundry trains” began ferrying miners from the heights of Leadville and Aspen to wash themselves and their clothes in the hot springs.

By 1890 a natorium and pool, fed by Yampah Hot Springs, a stone bathhouse and vapor cave, were completed. The next year, President Benjamin Harrison came to check out the spa. President Teddy Roosevelt spent an entire summer living in the historic Hotel Colorado and Molly Brown and Al Capone also stopped by for a soak.

Serial killer Ted Bundy was a less esteemed visitor; he escaped from the Glenwood Springs jail in 1977. His escape was undetected for 17 hours, but he was eventually recaptured and executed.