Iron Mountain Hot Springs: A Legacy of Entrepreneurship and Dreams

Map of IMHS Pools

Iron Mountain Hot Springs: A Legacy of Entrepreneurship and Dreams

“A true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer,” said American businessman, Nolan Bushnell, but dreaming has certainly played its part, at least for the owners of what pre-dated and currently is Iron Mountain Hot Springs.

Bushnell had it right. Entrepreneurs are doers – they take action and get things done. They create and build; they also bring intangible imaginings to solid reality. In other words, they make dreams come true. That’s been Iron Mountain Hot Springs’ story from its infancy to its current iteration.

Historical photo of Glenwood SpringsIn 1896, Robert “Bob” Ware was the first person to recognize the value and potential of developing a hot spring here. He bought the land, including the spring for $1,600. According to Glenwood Springs historian, Willa Kane, “he envisioned a mineral spa that catered to the medicinal needs of workers and to the average man, a competitor of sorts to the vast Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, which was a mile to the east.”

Ware got to work making his vision a reality. He dug individual pools, meticulously landscaped the property, and built a three-story home for family and guests. A savvy businessman, Ware catered to the niche market of the working class – offering 15 soaks for just a buck and you bring your own towel. He even provided transportation from central Glenwood to his spa. Even though his business was booming, Ware couldn’t resist the siren’s call of the Alaskan gold rush, though it’s unclear if prospecting worked out for him.

In 1908, he sold his spa to George “Wash” Allen and his wife Gertie for $17,000. They renamed the enterprise Wash Allen’s Bath House. The Allen family operated the health spa through 1938, and even managed to turn a profit during the hard years of the Great Depression.

In 1938, the Allens sold the place to Louis Nicholson, a Leadville resident familiar with the healing benefits of the springs. With the economy on the upswing, Nicholson also got to work making capital improvements to the property. During his tenure, the machinist by trade constructed five guest cabins.

Humbert Gamba's grocery store in Glenwood SpringsThe next owner was Humbert Gamba, who purchased it in 1943. The Gamba spring, named after him, is one of three springs that supplies pure geothermal water to Iron Mountain’s 16 soaking pools. Gamba and his family relocated from Osage City, Kansas. A butcher by trade, “Hum,” owned a grocery in downtown Glenwood Springs. While the store put meat on the table so to speak, he hoped the hot springs would help his ailing wife who was wheelchair bound.  As a hard-working man himself and the husband of an invalid, Hum understood the therapeutic value of massage and incorporated massage services as part of the hot springs offerings. The Gamba Hot Springs operated for more than two decades, when Dr. Charles Graves purchased it 1967.

Dr. Charles Graves, a chiropractor operated his practice out of the Gamba Mineral Springs for several years prior to purchasing it. Under his ownership he renamed the venture Glenwood Health Spa and offered his guests opportunities for soaking, massage, physical therapy and chiropractic care. Graves was later joined by his brothers, Harlan and Robert, also doctors of chiropractic medicine.

From 1996 to 2014, the hot springs property went into hibernation. The buildings were torn down to make way for a waterpark that never came to fruition. Over the years, the property became derelict. But rather than seeing a run-down piece of land on the edge of town, owners Steve and Jeannie Beckley and Mogli Cooper dreamed big and like all the entrepreneurs who came before them – they got to work. Their version of the vision has become Iron Mountain Hot Springs.

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Karin Gamba

Karin Gamba has been writing professionally for the travel and tourism markets for nearly two decades. She has promoted a wide array of travel products that include destination towns, vacation resorts, golf courses, ski areas, spas, hotels, restaurants and countless visitor attractions. Karin especially loves writing about her hometown of Glenwood Springs.