Glenwood Springs Entrance Signs
Colorado Red Sandstone
When I was first approached to create three ‘welcome’ signs for the City of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, the Historical Society ‘s notion to embody the walls of the famed canyon had crystallized in the form of two 6 ft tall Styrofoam triangles painted red, so effective were they however that immediately I saw them I was instantly able to visualize the task at hand; to portray the twisting winding steep-sided walls of the canyon as it appears to those travelling through it – the vast majority of whom are making their way along Interstate 70.
For those who have driven the canyon, perhaps as a brief interlude on a much longer trip, the experience can seem like a miraculous mirage – one minute the valley is wide and the landscape enormous, the next the walls have suddenly and unexpectedly risen to block out all but a tiny ribbon of sky directly overhead. It’s as though the road, bored with the endless miles of high arid desert, took upon itself to nip underground for a few miles and bestow upon it’s listless drivers something to marvel at – for marvel they do!
We all marvel at what we see no matter how many times we drive the canyon, it is simply too immense, too daunting, to ignore… and dangerous to boot. Boulders the size of trucks routinely careen down the steep walls and have at times punched holes clean through the elevated west-bound lanes. People have, and do (and most likely always will) lose their lives within those jagged walls: they drown in the river, die on the roads, and are struck by falling rocks all too frequently. However, these ongoing tragedies merely seems to add to the mystique of the place and serves to make it all the more fascinating if the truth be told.
The actual task of carving the signs went like clockwork and I was able to work the edge to my satisfaction, and cutting in the letters proved no problem whatsoever as the sandstone behaved itself perfectly. The problem arose strangely enough in sourcing sandstone slabs large enough to make all three points triangular cut. Yes, that’s what I thought – they’re not that big! But the problem lay in the triangular shape, sourcing a sufficient number of slabs of sufficient size to incorporate the three points, and finding one not shot through with cracks, proved the most taxing piece of the whole puzzle.
The problem arose due to the fact that the overwhelming majority of slabs are broken into paving and so they are quarried in relatively small slabs for the ease of handling. Not only that – but, horror of horrors, on close inspection practically all the large slabs had brand new scarring from chains, fork lifts, you name it. And finally, many of the larger slabs had various forms of cracks in them (not a problem if the slab is going to be split into paving stone – a boon in fact). Believe me, this part of the story – the sourcing of the slabs – was pretty much a nightmare for me – and if it was not for the wonderful people at Pine’s Stone, the best stone yard on the state’s I-70 corridor, then I would have been truly sunk. But, even though I’m sure there were times when they could have strangled me, they stuck with the project from beginning to end and it was their commitment to the cause that really made it happen.
Eventually, all three signs were completed and the day came for my good friend Mark Mace (above, right) to install them. Needless to say, ultimate professional that he is, his concrete pour went seamlessly, building a base strong enough to hold the two giant slabs vertical and creating a bond between the sandstone and cement that dried as hard as nails, and as smooth as silk.
All that was left for me to do was to drop a little memento into the time capsule. I chose an initialed ‘punch’ with which I sculpted the edge of the slabs in order to create the profile of the canyon walls. It was one of the first tools I ever bought, and indeed was one of the handful of tools I was allowed to use when I squared my block in order to earn the right to learn the ancient art of banker masonry at City of Bath College. I’m not saying I will, and I’m not saying I won’t, but there is a mathematical possibility that I could still be around when that time capsule is opened 50 years to the day after it was sealed. But if that is the case I sincerely hope that it will be aiding me with my latest carving before the day is through.
Oh, and finally. I did say that I made three signs, only two however have seen the light of day. One sits in the geometric center of a truly massive roundabout as east-bound traffic pulls off I-70 on the city’s West Side (it was designed to sit close to the freeway off ramp but apparently buried utility lines got in the way), the other performs a similar role but in a kinder spot as the already subdued east-bound off ramp traffic attempts to merge with the locals a stone’s throw away from the famous hot springs. The third? Well, it sits under the same tarps (now somewhat raggedy) at the Glenwood Springs recycling center that I placed over it almost seven years ago: a quite ignominious and undeserved fate. Perhaps one day a small corner of Glenwood Springs could be found to house it – say, outside the courthouse for instance, or on the corner of the city’s little downtown pocket park on Highway 82? It has after all been paid for by the good people of Glenwood Springs, surely it deserves to be seen.