COBWEB CORNERS: The Denver hotel explosion of 1895

By Mel McFarland

       In August 1895 without warning, the boiler in the basement of the Gumry Hotel exploded.
       In the building's ruins were several prominent people. One was Peter Gumry, hotel owner and superintendent of construction of the new capitol building. His assistant in the capitol project, R.C. Greiner, was also lost. A conductor for the Rock Island railroad and others were staying in the hotel, which after burning collapsed into a pile of rubble.
       There were rumors that the explosion was not an accident, but done to stop construction on the capitol building. Authorities laid the possible blame on a 17-year-old boy! Elmer Pierce had been temporarily charged with watching the boiler. It was thought that his inexperience using the injector, putting fresh cold water into the hot boiler, caused the blast. Somehow he escaped the building, and was later found among the spectators!
       Lost in the explosion was another prominent Colorado statesman, General Charles Adams of Colorado City. In his lifetime he had been a German expatriate; a wounded Civil War veteran; a brigadier general in the Colorado Militia; a presidentially appointed foreign ambassador; a postal inspector; a labor negotiator at the Cripple Creek mines; a businessman who helped attract industries to Colorado City, including the Glass Works and paint factory; and an Indian agent who was friends with the famous Chief Ouray.
       He was also involved in two famous events: the Meeker Massacre, after which he worked with Ouray and his wife Chipeta to negotiate the release of three women captured by the Utes; and the investigation of Alferd Packer, the man who ate his companions in the San Juan Mountains.
       No longer standing, the Adams' home on West Colorado Avenue was near the present-day bridge over Fountain Creek and the large campground. It is still known to many locals as "Adams Crossing."
       Adams' wife Margaret, who was not with him at the Denver hotel in 1895, lived in that house for many years afterwards.