Trains, Kendricks, and Boscos

During the early 1900s, the train was the heartbeat of Glenwood Springs. The train brought supplies, workers, and tourists into town, and also created a great need for lodging. Where the Hotel Denver building now stands were four saloons, a restaurant, a grocery store, and two rooming houses. Throughout the years, this hodgepodge was expanded and combined by the successful rooming house owners into today’s elegant, modern hotel. Art Kendrick and Henry Bosco, competitors and friends, were the original rooming house owners.

Here are their stories.

The Kendricks

The original Hotel Denver, then called the Denver House or Denver Rooms, was started by Art Kendrick, his wife Mary, and his brother Frank. Art Kendrick was a young boy in Illinois when General George Custer came through his hometown on his way west. Because of that encounter, Art was inspired to go west. The Chicago fire was devastating to the Kendricks, and Art’s brother Frank was actually lost for two weeks in the mayhem. In 1879 at age eight, Art’s desire to move west was rewarded when his father, Thomas, moved to Leadville, Colorado. Thomas worked in Leadville’s Clarendon Hotel until 1885, when he moved to Glenwood Springs.

Rail Changes Glenwood

The town of Glenwood Springs was established in 1885 and the first city council meeting was held at the Kendrick house. By the turn of the century, the Kendrick Cottages grew into elite tourist homes in a lovely wooded area near where the courthouse currently stands. This strategic location for the original tent was just steps from Glenwood’s future (first) train depot. Glenwood Springs was named after Glenwood, Iowa, which won out over its previous names of Grand Springs and Defiance. The principal founder of Glenwood Springs was Isaac Cooper, owner of the property where The Hotel Denver currently stands.

Life changed in Glenwood Springs in 1887 when railroads arrived. The Denver and Rio Grande came from the east, and Colorado Midland came from Aspen. The tourism economy was suddenly blooming, and demand increased quickly for lodging. The Kendrick compound was strategically placed to help meet the needs of these travelers. It was located on a corner opposite the new D&RG railroad station at Riverfront and Pitkin Avenue. Following in his father’s footsteps, Art Kendrick began his hotel career hopping bells for the Hotel Glenwood in the late 1880’s. The job involved answering calls from the ailing Doc Holliday, and Doc tipped him “pretty good.” At Hotel Glenwood, he also met his future wife, Mary who was working as a maid.

Foundations

In 1888 the world’s largest hot springs pool was born in the newly established town of Glenwood Springs. It was identified as a world-renowned healing wonder set in a mountain paradise. Rail traffic had increased to the point that a new train station was necessary. Catering to the elegant expectations of presidents and wealthy travelers, D&RG (Denver and Rio Grande Railroad) built a beautiful depot in 1904. Theodore von Rosenberg from Vienna designed the depot in the style of The Hot Springs Natatorium. The depot remains the star of Glenwood’s downtown skyline.

Seventh Street opposite the train station was a whirl of activity. Bars, restaurants and stores sprung up in a hodgepodge. In the center of the block, Frank Walters built an impressive three-story brick building with a grocery on the first floor. Art and Mary Kendrick, working as bellhop and maid at The Hotel Glenwood, saved for years and in 1905 were able to rent the upper two stories. Art’s brother Frank was also an investor in the startup venture, until three became a crowd. The Avalanche Echo reported the lease, opining that “everything bids fair to have a successful rooming house there.” The seventeen rooms were named The Denver Rooms. Within a short four years, the Kendricks purchased the property.

The Boscos

The other important party in the founding of The Hotel Denver was Henry Bosco. In 1884, after landing in New York from Italy with just thirty cents, Henry made his way to Colorado. By 1906, fourteen or more bars were in the immediate vicinity of the new train station. The enterprising Henry Bosco rented a room in the basement of the river-facing Oberto Saloon to sell wholesale liquor. Henry’s wholesale liquor operation did well, and in 1908 he was able to buy the Oberto Saloon building. Wasting no valuable real estate; the basement was wholesale liquor, the main floor a saloon, and now the second story had rooms for rent.

In 1908, Mike Bosco followed his uncle Henry to Glenwood Springs, as a young man of sixteen with $5 in his pocket. Mike worked polishing stones at the mill in Marble. Like many immigrants, he did not know what he earned because his English was poor, and he was afraid that asking would get him fired. Mike collected discarded bottles and resold them, making more money from that enterprise than in the mill. Using his earnings from discarded bottles, Mike began the franchise of bottling a new soft drink called Coca-Cola. The ambitious young man also leased the rooms for rent from his Uncle Henry and managed the rooming house, taking a break to serve in World War I.

Expansion

At the west end of the block, Art and Mary Kendrick’s successful lodging business enabled them to get adjacent properties for further expansion. In 1913, an ambitious three-story remodel was completed using brick. Henry Bosco also acquired two more lots and began construction of The Star Hotel, which opened in 1915. Prohibition started the first day of 1916, and the bars on Riverfront, now re-named 7th Street, were in trouble. Art Kendrick was finally able to buy the remaining lot to the west. Bosco expanded to the east. Although competitors, Kendrick and Bosco were great friends.

In 1922, Art Kendrick completed the most ambitious expansion to date. Improvements included connections for telephones, toilets in each room, an elevator, and a marvelous lobby floor crafted from one-inch tiles. An exterior lighting scheme to rival the Denver Electric building was installed. The building sparkled light a diamond in the night.

Signs of the Times

The two hotels weathered the Great Depression. The Star Hotel provided a roof over the Bosco family, but little else. Mike Bosco supplemented his income by selling grapes to other Italian families for wine making. Henry Bosco died in 1929 at age 72. Speakeasies and bootlegging started in earnest as soon as liquor was banned. Glenwood Springs drew the attention of Chicago gangster, Diamond Jack Alterie, who liked to stay at The Hotel Denver.

Jack arrived in Western Colorado in 1929. He brought with him a police record including kidnapping, homicide, burglary, and more. He was never convicted. No one knows the reason, but on one occasion Diamond Jack came out of the Hotel Denver with his guns firing. A porter was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and a bullet grazed him along the temple. In another Hotel Denver incident in 1932, Jack shot two innocent salesmen through a closed hotel room door. One of the salesmen died as a result of the wound. The judge fined Jack $1250 and asked him to leave the state.

Clark Gable also enjoyed staying at The Hotel Denver in the 1930s and would spend a week fishing. It was quite an event for local ladies!

Two Become One

By 1938, Mary Kendrick had probably had enough, and talked Mike Bosco into borrowing the money to buy the Denver Hotel side of the block. The Hotel Denver again almost doubled in size. County records show a 5% note payable to Kendricks for $75,000, and $7000 payable to Mr. Peter Chuc. Art and Mary Kendrick were able to retire, confident that their life-long work was in good hands. Bosco chose to keep the Hotel Denver name.

During World War II the Navy commissioned the Hotel Colorado and Hot Springs Pool as a hospital for recovering veterans. Trainloads of ill and injured soldiers, medical personnel, and supportive families descended on Glenwood Springs. Camp Hale near Leadville was activated, and many of the military families stayed in Glenwood Springs. With this demand, The Hotel Denver prospered once again. By 1948, Mike Bosco was able to modernize the old hotels, removing the cornice work and re-facing the old Star Hotel. Mike’s son, Hank Bosco, served in the war and upon his return took significant responsibility for the management of The Hotel Denver.

The Disruption

After 58 years and three generations of family ownership, the Bosco family sold The Hotel Denver in 1973. The buyer was a corporation headed by Kirk Whiteley of Grand Junction. The corporation also operated the Hotel Colorado. Plans were to combine marketing efforts and to encourage convention business. Mike Bosco continued to live in the hotel, where he had lived for over 62 years, until his death in 1974. In 1981, Janet Smith and Rhudy Fowler of San Diego purchased the Hotel Denver. Within two years, plans were underway for a 4-million-dollar renovation.

A 1983 Glenwood Post article reported that the hotel would change its name to Grande Hotel and begin a total renovation. The renovation would include a 3-story office building and feature a 3-story glass-walled atrium. The number of rooms decreased to 58, down from the all-time high of 100 rooms. The hotel closed for the first time in history during the renovation. The beautiful glass atrium and the south office building were completed. The name change did not happen. The Hotel Denver went into receivership and was foreclosed upon in 1991.

Back to Our Roots

That same year, local businessman Steve Carver rallied a group of locals to buy that property as well as the neighboring Rex Hotel. Over the next few years, Steve and April Carver were able to buy out other members of the group. The Hotel Denver was once again a family business.

Craft beer and local breweries were something of a new concept in 1996. Durango brewpub owners Jim and Bill Carver (not related) joined with Steve and April Carver to open Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company. The new brewpub was located in the old Star section of The Hotel Denver. “The Brewpub” became a local favorite and significant brewpub in the state. It also became the cornerstone of 7th Street redevelopment in future years and continues as a prominent draw to the area today.

In 2015, we celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the original Star Hotel construction. When the train brought visitors, businessmen and miners to a young town in 1915, the Hotel Denver provided much-needed lodging and services. The Hotel provided jobs when prohibition closed bars and the depression hit and provided lodging to loved ones of healing WWII servicemen. It continues to anchor the vital Seventh Street hub of activity, just as its founders the Kendricks and the Boscos would have wanted.