Produced in collaboration with correspondent Myki Jones
Something recently has resurfaced in the community’s attention: hushed whispers of tunnel systems underneath the city of Glenwood Springs. So, naturally, The Sopris Sun team went underground to bring you this story, tattered with mystery at every twist and turn. There are some who are sure the tunnels exist (or once did) and others who consider the assertion far-fetched. But, don’t they say, “behind every good mystery lies a bit of truth?”
The recent buzz about the purported tunnels derives from a simple Facebook post. In January of this year, Rachael Serena Young made a post on the Roaring Fork Swap community page prompting community interest. “I’m starting to hear about the underground tunnel network under Glenwood Springs and I’d like to learn as much as possible,” she wrote. “What do folks here know about the history of use down there and why is it kept a secret? Thanks in advance.”
From there, a new Facebook group called “Glenwood Springs, CO, Underground Tunnels — Explore” was created. One member, Anna Mae Cline, sat down to speak with The Sun at the historic Hotel Colorado, and claimed that she spent time in tunnel systems beneath it, in this and a past life. Cline is a long-time resident of the Roaring Fork Valley.
With excitement percolating, The Sun team followed several leads, but stones remain unturned and the mystery looms.
To kick things off, The Sun’s team joined ranks with Carolyn Cipperly, archivist for the Glenwood Springs Historical Society, and headed into the depths of what is today’s Juicy Lucy’s Steakhouse. The manager, Heath Johnson, was kind enough to let us in.
It suffices to say, while the basement of Juicy Lucy’s provides a glimpse into the undersurface of history, the team did not uncover a tunnel.
That said, Johnson did mention that a four foot in diameter sewage line made of brick, lies beneath the already subterranean basement.
“The line that is under Juicy Lucy’s is an oddity in the world of sewer in Glenwood,” Public Works Director Matt Langhorst later explained to The Sopris Sun. He said that the brick line was likely used as a storm sewer channel rather than a sanitary one. “That line is not part of our sewer system and, from what we know, only exists under that building,” he noted.
Just around the corner on Cooper Ave. and under the historic Veltus Building on the Blake Block, there are in fact four sets of bunk beds (so eight beds total) in its basement. It remains unclear through today as to who slept there. The beds are made of treated lumber, are six feet long and vary in width. Some say they were meant for Chinese railroad workers.
While inspecting between one of the bunk beds and the wall, The Sun team came across something covered under a bit of gravel and dirt. Within a worn envelope dated August 20, 1943, and labled “Technical Manual for Timing and Telephone Sets…” was indeed a manual with the header: “War Department.” On the opening page is a “destruction notice” with instructions on how to destroy the device, “to prevent the enemy from using or salvaging this equipment for his benefit.” It reads on, detailing suggestions on how best to destroy the machine, including — but not limited to — smashing with a sledge hammer and/or exploding with dynamite.
This could be of interest, as Glenwood Springs played a role in serving the country during this wartime era. Namely, the Hotel Colorado served as a Naval hospital from July 5, 1943 until the end of the war. Or, another red herring perhaps?
Tristan Mead inspects the mysterious bunk beds beneath the Veltus Building on Cooper Ave. Photo by James Steindler
According to Christian Henny, president of the Hotel Colorado, the only tunnel under its surface was once used to get to and from the employee living quarters north of the building. The living quarters were “torn down around 1966,” stated Henny, and the space now serves as a parking lot.
Henny showed The Sopris Sun the tunnel in its current form. Today, it is half the length it once was and mostly filled with storage. The basement once had a billiards room, horse stables, an ice room, a coal room and later a brig (when the hotel was used as a naval hospital).
“One of the alleged stories was that Ted Bundy was found in a tunnel, he was not,” explained Henny. “He was found right across from the elevator in the basement … not down some tunnel.”
Henny also said that Al Capone more than likely did use the tunnel to “go socialize with the female staff.” As he understands it, Capone would enter through the side doors, which led to the basement, not through the lobby, so it’s reasonable to discern he was aware of the employee passageway.
According to the Glenwood Springs Public Works and Engineering departments, during the relatively recent excavations on Grand Ave and 7th Street, there was no sign of tunnels.
“I have seen historic coal chutes on Grand Avenue … and an aqueduct we found in Two Rivers Park, but other than that, nothing mysterious,” City Engineer Terri Partch told The Sopris Sun.
Reportedly, the aqueduct was about 24 inches in diameter and, according to Partch, was too small to crawl through. “We photographed and documented it. We then left it in place and built the current wall system over it,” he stated.
While, at this point, the existence of tunnels has not been proven (or disproven, for that matter), the lore surrounding them is a topic of discussion that makes heads spin and the conversation is sure to carry on.