The Western Hotel at 716 Cooper Avenue in Glenwood Springs started in 1887 as a one-story brick restaurant building. In the early twentieth century, the building was expanded under the ownership of the Bosco family, which began renting rooms there by the early 1920s. Later owned and operated for decades by the Toniolli family, the Western Hotel is the last surviving early working-class hotel in Glenwood Springs.
Glenwood Springs was established in the 1880s and quickly developed into a high-class resort area with the arrival of the Denver & Rio Grande and Colorado Midland Railroads (1887) and the opening of the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool (1888) and a cluster of large hotels such as the Hotel Glenwood (1886), Grand Hotel (1888), and Hotel Colorado (1893).
As Glenwood Springs developed in the late 1880s, Cooper Avenue served as the town’s main street because it ran by the railroad depot and had a bridge over the Grand River (now the Colorado River). The 700 block of Cooper Avenue, located just south of the river and the railroad depot, quickly filled with commercial buildings. Sometime in 1887, a one-story brick restaurant—the first phase of what became the Western Hotel—went up in the middle of the east side of the block. The owner and name of the restaurant are unknown. It closed by 1890, and the building remained vacant until at least 1898. Meanwhile, increasing traffic to the hot springs resort on the north side of the river led to the construction of a new bridge a block west on Grand Avenue, making it the town’s main street and relegating Cooper Avenue to secondary status.
Sometime in the early 1900s, the one-story brick restaurant on Cooper Avenue passed into the hands of the Bosco family. Originally from Italy, the Boscos came to the United States in the 1880s and settled on land near Glenwood Springs. In the early 1900s, they moved to town and soon became major players in the local hospitality industry. By 1907 Edward Bosco was operating a saloon in the one-story brick building, and the Bosco family had built a two-story brick addition off the back, possibly for use as an owner apartment. Sometime over the next five years they also added a brick second story over the saloon. This section of the building may have been used as a rooming house or potentially a brothel; at the time, the blocks near the river had a reputation as a red-light district.
After Garfield County enacted prohibition in 1914, the saloons in Glenwood Springs closed and the red-light district were more strictly policed. By 1917 Edward Bosco had changed his former saloon on Cooper Avenue into a grocery store. By 1919 the building also had a soda shop.
Around the same time, the Boscos started renting furnished rooms on the building’s second floor. It is possible that they rented rooms as early as 1916. In 1920 one lodger was listed at the address, and around 1923 the building was known as the Bosco Rooms. By 1925 it was being called the Western Hotel. In contrast to large hotels like the Hotel Colorado, which catered to wealthy tourists, two-story hotels like the Western catered to working-class travelers and served as rooming houses for railroad and construction workers.
In 1939 the Bosco family, which also owned the nearby Hotel Denver, sold the Western Hotel to their friends John and Ida Toniolli. Like the Boscos, the Toniollis were Italian Americans. John had been born in Tyrol in 1900 and moved to the United States in 1921, while Ida had been born in the Boscos’ Star Hotel in Glenwood Springs in 1911 but soon moved back to Tyrol with her family and lived there until 1920, when the family returned to Garfield County. In 1932 John and Ida met in New Castle and soon married.
John Toniolli worked as a miner, but Ida was concerned about the effects of mining on his health and convinced him to buy the Western Hotel for $5,000 when Marcus Bosco put it up for sale. Bosco helped ease the Toniollis into the hotel business by giving them tutorials on what to charge for short-term rentals and how to deal with long-term tenants.
Business at the Western Hotel thrived in the 1940s and 1950s. During World War II, the hotel hosted friends and family members of the veterans who were recovering at the US Naval Convalescent Hospital that had opened in the Hotel Colorado. Then, in 1953 construction workers who were building a new bridge over the Colorado River stayed at the Western Hotel.
The steady stream of business during these years allowed the Toniollis to expand and renovate the Western Hotel. In 1945 they built a two-story concrete addition covered with stucco on the back of the hotel. It had a garage on the first floor and a guest apartment with its own kitchen and bathroom on the second floor. In 1951 they remodeled the Cooper Avenue facade with tan brick and midcentury windows to give it a modern look.
The Toniollis updated the building’s interior decor in the early 1950s, 1960s, and 1980s, but the configuration of the rooms remained largely the same throughout their ownership. Inside the front entrance, the northern part of the building was the lobby. The Toniollis had their own living space on the south side of the floor, and they also used three bedrooms off a hallway that ran toward the back of the building. A guest apartment with a kitchen occupied the far northeast (rear) corner of the floor. Upstairs, the building had a total of ten guest bedrooms and two shared bathrooms, plus the guest apartment that was added at the rear in 1945. There was also a basement under the original 1887 building; John Toniolli used the space to make wine for his family and the hotel’s guests.
In addition to short-term visitors, the Western Hotel also hosted several long-term residents, including one tenant who lived there for thirty-three years and another who stayed for twenty-eight years. The Toniollis made friends with their long-term renters and with regulars who returned to the Western for yearly vacations in Glenwood Springs.
After John Toniolli died in 1980, Ida Toniolli continued to own and operate the Western Hotel. She retired in 2012, at age 101, and closed the hotel. She kept living in the building for another year, but then she moved to nursing care and a hired caretaker, John Gonzalez, looked after the hotel.
Ida Toniolli died in February 2016, at age 105, and in March 2016 the Western Hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Younger members of the Toniolli family hope to restore and reopen the hotel in the future.