COBWEB CORNERS: The Glass Works disaster

By Mel McFarland

       Just after midnight on September 9, 1892, the top of the furnace collapsed, causing the fiery glass that was kept on top of it to pour onto the platform at the Colorado City Glass Works. A night watchman and three others, preparing for the next day's production, were in the building. The fire quickly spread, even though the men attempted to fight it. The heat was way beyond water's effect. Attention shifted to the warehouse building next door. It included the factory's recent output and stock of raw glass.
       Several Midland boxcars were sitting at the warehouse. Three caught fire. Three others were saved by releasing the brakes and letting them roll down the hill, where they derailed. A few others were far enough away that they were not in danger. The Colorado City fire department arrived, but with the fierceness of the fire, all that firefighters could do was keep it from spreading. In the end, only the furnace building and the boxcars were destroyed. By morning, the fire was generally finished.
       J.B. Wheeler, principal stockholder of the company, arrived on the scene, after a quick trip from Denver. He announced that the plant would be rebuilt, and the workmen would have jobs. A rebuilding scheme was put in place and a new, better furnace was ordered. Within days the site was being cleared for the new furnace building, which was to be ready by the end of the year. The biggest problem was the loss of customers during the rebuilding process. Another serious blow resulted from the Silver Panic, as the silver mines in Aspen were key to Wheeler's other investments.
       In the end, the business never recovered. Despite several attempts to struggle on, the plant in the Midland Heights area was quiet by the turn of the century, and the buildings were eventually torn down.
       As I have mentioned in earlier columns, some of the chunks of raw glass from that late-1800s factory still show up now and then in neighborhood yards. Some of them have been incorporated into rock walls and rock gardens.