Colorado State Historical Fund Grant

THE CARDIFF COKE OVENS 
Stabilization Project

As part of the fundraising efforts for this two-phased project, the Glenwood Springs Historical Society will establish a Cardiff Coke Ovens Maintenance Fund to ensure that the funds are in place to maintain and steward this resource.

Additional grants will be applied for as needed.

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Grant

The Cardiff Coke Ovens Stabilization Project was awarded $34,930 on November 1, 2022 for:

Planning and Preservation

Stabilization Documents

Vegetation Removal

Erosion Control

Interpretive Signage

History

The Cardiff Coke Ovens are one of the few sites in Glenwood Springs on the National Register of Historic Places that are open to the public, free of charge. The site helps to educate visitors and locals about coal mining, coking, railroads and immigrant lives in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Why the Project is Important

The Cardiff Coke Oven bank-system currently consists of 50 kilns, three of which exhibit a unique characteristic with vents installed at the back of each oven and floors made of firebrick pavers. These vents may have connected to an internal system allowing the ovens to be ignited internally. The oven foundations consist of shaped sandstone slabs and the walls are of compressed firebrick. Shaped stone blocks, dressed sandstone likely from the Peachblow quarry, once formed a uniform near-vertical face. Facing stones were removed and used to construct the gateposts, foundation and fireplace of a nationally listed building, Sumers Lodge. A two-track dirt road in front of the ovens, heavily impregnated with coal dust and vegetation, is all that remains of the Midland Railroad. The ovens are in variable states of decay, with some missing only a few finishing bricks while the bricks of others are nearly all gone, having suffered degradation through exposure to the elements, natural vegetation root encroachment, exterior erosion, poaching, and vandalism.

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The Cardiff Coke Ovens are historically significant because of their association with the industrial history of the lower Roaring Fork valley, including railroad, coal mining and immigrant history, and the information they yield concerning the construction and operation of coke ovens. The unusual venting system in three of the ovens provides clues to the functioning of a subsurface coal ignition system.

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Based on the plans created during Phase I, Phase II will include: vegetation removal from fronts and tops of remaining ovens, erosion mitigation and reseeding for the remaining site; preservation of high-priority ovens by Summit Sealants and Restoration Services Inc.; research, design, manufacture and install interpretive signage specifically about this preservation project and for the large historic artifacts currently stored on the site; and archeological monitoring as needed. All work in Phase II will meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines for Archeology and Historic Preservation. The Glenwood Springs Historical Society intends to approach the History Colorado – State Historical fund for another round of competitive grant funding to complete Phase II of this important preservation project. The GSHS will continue to host periodic volunteer cleanup days to maintain the site and mitigate major vegetation growth. Preliminary plans for income generation are being considered such as installing a freestanding coffee vendor or "food truck" at the Ovens site. 

The City of Glenwood Springs has begun the construction of the new bypass around the main corridor of the City which will run directly alongside the property and connect to Highway 82. The reroute and the ensuing construction activity will occur within feet of the Cardiff Coke Oven site property line and not far from the ovens themselves.

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Thanks to a $140,000 grant from the Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District (FMLD) awarded to the City of Glenwood Springs in 2022, the City of GWS will be constructing parking spaces; paving an ADA accessible path in front of the primary ovens with stairs and a ramp; installing site lighting, water, electric and a fire hydrant; and regrading and reseeding the City’s Right-of-Way

Project Steps

  • Remove vegetation from the fronts and the tops of the priority coke ovens. Thin and remove vegetation along the wharf edge and Midland Railroad grade to increase visibility. Install erosion mat and reseed cleared areas with native grasses and wildflowers to support drainage. Overgrowth of vegetation such as sage and sumac as well as soil erosion have resulted in structural damage to the ovens. Trees are emerging within the ovens themselves and other vegetation is disrupting the soils surrounding the ovens. This overgrowth contributes to the reduced visibility of the ovens from the road and to the increased opportunity for both poaching and vandalism. Any artifacts discovered on the ground during this process will be documented by an archeological monitor.​

  • Install fencing behind the ovens, and caution signage around the site for safety purposes and to reduce the threat of vandalism to the coke ovens. Fencing and signs above the ovens will keep humans and wildlife from walking on the vulnerable tops of the ovens, thereby reducing the safety hazard and preventing further deterioration

  • Create site development and wildfire mitigation plans for the site with associated drawings to determine preservation work for Phase I & II. Given the severity of drought in the west and the more frequent occurrence of wildfire in Garfield County, thinning and other tools to create defensible space on this site need to occur to protect this resource.

  • Research, design, manufacture and install interpretive signage to share the history and preservation of the site. To share the history of the Cardiff Coke ovens and educate visitors about the preservation project taking place at the site, interpretive signage will be designed, manufactured and installed

  • Remove graffiti caused by vandalism from coke ovens. To discourage further vandalism and prepare for the masonry work in Phase II, the graffiti on the interior of the ovens will be removed using the gentlest means possible, per the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines for Archeology and Historic Preservation.

“Without the support of many individuals and businesses in the Glenwood community, this project would not be possible,” Bill Kight, Executive Director