Despite Great Depression, Glenwood Canyon saw development in 1938 |

Despite Great Depression, Glenwood Canyon saw development in 1938

Carla Jean Whitley
A view of Shoshone Intake Diversion Dam in Glenwood Canyon shows the area as it appeared in the 1930s.
Library of Congress |

The United States was in the tail end of the Great Depression, but public works projects were in the process of transforming Glenwood Springs.

The existing path through Glenwood Canyon — or canon, as The Glenwood Post then called it — closed in October 1936. Travelers were required to instead reroute along Cottonwood Pass. As work progressed, the Post kept readers up to date.

Revamping the Canyon

“Within two weeks practically rock work and blasting in Glenwood canon will be completed and it is commonly believed the road will be completed for formal opening about the first of June.

“If the new bridges have been completed and set for 30 days on the first of June, the road will open, otherwise it will be delayed a short time. A crew of about 200 men is now employed in the canon,” the paper reported on March 31.

By April 7, contractors began to move equipment about the canyon as they put finishing touches on the work. One of three contractors, Hinman Construction Company, was still at work on a double-span bridge at the Shoshone Dam.

“Altogether 17 miles of road has been built and is the finest in the state,” the paper asserted.

The road officially opened on June 5, 1938, at 6 a.m. It still needed to be oiled, which would continue in the following weeks. Days earlier, on June 2, the paper all but boasted of the new highway:

“From one end to the other Glenwood canon has a well graded and banked highway and its width will be thrilling to drivers, particularly those who remember it during the past few years. Blind curves have been completely eradicated and beautiful bridges have been constructed. The grandeur of the canon’s scenery has not been touched, but the new road lends it much more charm and attraction. Now that the canon road is about to be opened, Glenwood may really boast of the magnificent road, which will prove its value through all the seasons.”

The official grand-opening celebration wasn’t held for nearly two months, which allowed time for the road to be oiled and presented complete.

Front-Page news

As the end neared, the Post ran front-page stories each week to remind readers of the upcoming celebration. On Aug. 1 — Colorado Day — many gathered at and near the bridge in front of Hotel Colorado to listen to speakers and celebrate the finished stretch of road. The program included a buffalo meat barbecue and an afternoon dip in the nearby pool.

The country would begin to recover from the Great Depression in the 1940s, as World War II increased military spending and therefore employed many in defense manufacturing.

Glenwood would continue to see change for years to come. Interstate 70, the current road through the canyon, wasn’t implemented until decades later. The portion of I-70 that stretches through the canyon was the last bit to be completed.

Although Glenwood Canyon opened again in 1938, the area’s construction woes weren’t done. On June 23, a Post headline announced: “New bridge to be built soon in Glenwood.” In preparation, traffic was diverted from Grand Avenue between 11th and 13th streets, requiring travelers to instead detour one block west to Colorado Avenue. The promised $12,000 12th Street bridge was to open in July.

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