Historic structure located in Cardiff could be jail
Glenwood Springs city staff uncover century-old ruins during South Bridge project design phase
Tucked into an overgrowth of sage south of Sopris Elementary School along Airport Road, two dilapidated, concrete walls raise new questions about the Cardiff town site.
Is the crumbling structure the last remaining corner of the Cardiff jail? Could it be the foundation of a general store that once supplied essentials to miners manning the nearby coal coke ovens?
Glenwood Springs City Engineer Terri Partch said Friday that the city aims to research and document the find as part of the South Bridge project.
“It’s rare to come across pieces of history like this on a project this size,” Partch said. “Typically, they’ve all been documented long beforehand.”
City crews discovered the structure, about 35-feet east from Airport Road, near Cardiff Mini Storage, 68 County Road No. 160, while reviewing cut and fill slopes for the South Bridge project, which is intended to give Glenwood Springs a southern exit onto Colorado Highway 82.
More than 130 years ago, Grand River Coal and Coke Co. selected a small town about 4 miles south of the hot springs as the new location for their coal coking ovens. Named Cardiff after the village of the same name in Wales, the town population grew to about 150, with amenities including employee houses, two bunkhouses, a school, hotel, several mercantile establishments, a four-stall engine house, a blacksmith shop and cattle pens, the Glenwood Historical Society reports on its website, GlenwoodHistory.com.
About 240 coking ovens near Cardiff were used to remove impurities from high-quality bituminous coal, creating an end product to be used in the steel production process or to smelt silver ore mined near Aspen, the historical society states.
As coal use declined early in the 20th century, so, too, did Cardiff. By 1934, a New York investment banker bought the town site and ovens for the location of his new summer home, according to the historical society.
Nearly a century later, Glenwood Springs is in the planning process of creating a southern thoroughfare on the bones of what was once Cardiff’s town proper. As part of the design process, Partch said an environmental assessment was conducted, which identified the need to document the historic site.
“What really caught our eye was these iron hooks jutting out from the structure’s north-facing wall,” Partch said, reaching up to touch a rusty, J-shaped iron bar strutting out horizontally from the aged wall. “And, if you look at the concrete used in this wall, you can see this odd, black material in the mix. It looks like it might have come from the coke ovens.”
Local historian and Glenwood Springs Historical Society Executive Director Bill Kight visited the structure, and after comparing the location with old photos from Cardiff, Kight told city staff the structure could be the remnants of the Cardiff jail.
The structure is currently dubbed the “Old Cardiff Jail site” in city documents.
But not everyone agrees. As Partch poked around the approximately 15-foot-by-15-foot enclosure, a neighbor stopped by to say he thought it could be the ruins of a general store.
Whatever the case, Glenwood Springs City Council approved an amendment Sept. 16 to the South Bridge design contract, which could fund a number of project planning requirements, including about $9,000 to research and document the “Jail Site” structure.
“We’re not going to disturb the site,” Partch said. “But if there’s interest, we could provide better access for people to come see it.”
Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at email@example.com.
The Aspen Ambulance District seeks a property-tax increase to keep up its level of service, and the Pitkin County commissioners showed initial willingness this week to put the question on the Nov. 8 ballot.
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