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spring overview of downtown glenwood springs

Irish Roots Run Deep in Glenwood Springs

Corned beef and cabbage chased by a pint of green beer are what comes to mind when most of us think about St. Patrick’s Day, but there’s much more to the Irish story than a corny meal, especially in Glenwood Springs.

Like much of Colorado, the Irish have left an indelible mark on Glenwood Springs that goes beyond a one-day celebration in March. Their influence, from pioneer immigrants to residents with more recent Irish roots, has left a legacy on the hot springs town that can still be experienced today.

After the devastating potato famine that lasted from 1845 to 1852, starving approximately one million people and forcing another 1.5 million to emigrate elsewhere to survive, Irish immigrants landed in the U.S. with nothing but the clothes on their backs. As a group, they were mainly Catholic, impoverished, and unskilled. Looking for work and dreaming of striking it rich, many headed west to work in the mining towns of the west.

Early Pioneer Spirit: The Barlows

dolllie and familyThe draw of a better life was what enticed Caroline Clark Barlow and her husband Fred Barlow, along with her daughter Dollie and son-in-law James Landis to relocate to Glenwood Springs from Kansas after good reports of Landis’ scouting visits in the late 1870s. After arriving, to make ends meet, Caroline and Fred set up a large tent by the Colorado River which became Glenwood’s first “hotel.” Caroline also ran a restaurant providing meals for hungry miners and she started Glenwood Springs’ first post office. A can-do, industrious kind of gal with a philanthropic heart, she also acted as the town nurse for injured miners and locals. James Landis grew hay on the site of the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool. He eventually sold his acreage to Isaac Cooper who had dreams of turning the hot springs into an elite wellness destination.

The family’s fortunes quickly improved and before long the Barlows could hire a cook —a Chinese immigrant—and build a solid log cabin structure out of which to run their operations. The family was so central to the town’s identity that for a time Glenwood Springs was known as “Barlow.” Eventually, Fred Barlow, a gambling man, overplayed his hand. During the construction of Barlow’s St. James Hotel, now a part of the Hotel Denver across the street from the historic train depot, Fred lost a bet with the contractor and agreed to add a fourth floor to the structure. The cost was more than he could handle and the Barlows were forced to sell. Both Caroline and Fred are buried in Linwood Cemetery, the resting place of many of Glenwood’s pioneer homesteaders.

Building on Tradition: The Quigleys

Historic photo from Quigley FarmDecades later, Irish immigrant families have continued to shape Glenwood Springs. Marianne (Quigley) Ackerman is an Owner Broker with The Property Shop, a local real estate company. She tells the story of how her Irish grandfather Christopher “Christ” Quigley emigrated from Ireland to the U.S. aboard the Oceanic and arrived at Ellis Island in 1906. He married Mary McGrath and the two eventually journeyed to Glenwood Springs. In the 1930s, the couple purchased a vast expanse of land on Spring Valley Ranch and raised livestock, primarily cattle, but also pigs and chickens. The Quigley’s had three sons—one of them Marianne’s father Dan, of the other two, her Uncle Jim continued to work the Quigley Ranch until her grandparents’ deaths. Dan and his wife Ellen had three children, Marianne, Trish, and Shiela.

“Growing up, there was always someone at our house or the ranch house for dinner. We never had a meal without a guest at the table,” Marianne recalls about her family’s welcoming attitude passed down through the generations. “Meat and potatoes were always on the menu and my grandfather would entertain us by playing the accordion.”

In addition to providing warm servings of hospitality, the Quigley property was also the de facto detox center for Irish immigrants needing to dry out. Alcoholics would “take the pledge,” vowing to stay sober, and would work as ranch hands in return for room and board. “It was a way of taking care of people who were having a rough time,” Marianne explained.

In 1965, at the urging of her Uncle Jim, the Quigleys and neighboring ranches jointly donated hundreds of acres of land to create a space for a new community college. “I remember Uncle Jim going around on horseback to all the other ranchers to encourage them to donate a portion of their property, and they did it not for a tax right off, but from their hearts as a gift for future generations.” The property is now the home of Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley Campus which offers over 50 degrees and certificates. Campus highlights include a 220-acre veterinary farm, the Isaacson School for Communications, Arts and Media, and the award-winning Sopris Theatre Company.

When asked if she’ll be eating corned beef and cabbage for St. Paddy’s Day? “Oh gosh, no! I’ll skip that and the green beer too. We never had any of that growing up,” Marianne said. “My grandfather did make whiskey though, so I’ll have an Irish coffee in his honor instead.”

How To Go Irish in Glenwood Springs Any Time of Year

Fortunately, the luck of the Irish is alive and well in Glenwood Springs and visitors can experience the flavors and friendliness of the Emerald Isle whenever they visit the hot springs town. Here are a few suggestions for going Irish in Glenwood Springs.

• Imbibe in pub culture. Places to try include Glenwood Canyon Brewpub, Casey Brewing Tap Room, Doc Holliday’s Tavern, and The Springs.
• Dine on bangers and mash or corned beef and cabbage at several local restaurants. Even if the chefs aren’t of Irish decent, they whip up delicious fare in honor of the holiday.
• The Irish are famous for their sense of humor and light-hearted take on life; channel a happy-go-lucky mood by taking in a comedy show at Glenwood Vaudeville Revue.
• From field to table, enjoy potatoes every which way, the edible tuber is a favorite Irish vegetable, and you’ll find it dished up in a variety of ways from breakfast to dinner at restaurants throughout town.
• Irish whiskey is one of the oldest distilled spirits in the world. Jameson, Bushmills, Teeling, Tullamore Dew are among the most famous of Ireland’s whiskeys. Cap off a night in Glenwood Springs with a glass. Cooper Wine & Spirits is likely to offer whiskey tastings over the weekend.

In Glenwood Springs, the echoes of Irish heritage resonate far beyond St. Patrick’s Day. From the pioneering spirit of families like the Barlows, who shaped its early days with resilience and community spirit, to the enduring legacy of the Quigleys, whose hospitality and generosity continue to thrive, the Irish influence is unmistakable.

Learn more and make plans to go Irish on your next vacation to Glenwood Springs!

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Visit Glenwood Springs

Reservations to hike Hanging Lake are released on a weekly basis every Tuesday at 8:00 am MDT. 

PLEASE NOTE: Hanging Lake reservations for  July 3rd through 7th will be released Tuesday, July 2nd, 8:00 am MDT. 

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