Charles Nash: 1931-1912
June 28, 2012
Real-estate developer Charles Nash restored Hot Sulphur Springs
Grand County lost a colorful and creative light this month with the death of real-estate developer and preservationist Charles Nash.
He was 81. Nash was best known in these parts for his restoration of the spa at Hot Sulphur Springs. He moved to Grand County in 1998 after a successful career in Denver converting derelict school buildings and other historic structures into luxury condominiums.
A native Vermonter, Charles Russell Bispham Nash came to Colorado in 1975 and launched his building career that year by restoring the old St. Francis of Assisi Church in downtown Castle Rock. Dubbed “The Old Stone Church,” the structure became a popular restaurant and bar, which he owned and operated during the latter part of the decade. He eventually sold it to concentrate on new business ventures in central Denver. Nearly 40 years later, the Old Stone Church is still going strong.
Nash never met an adventure he didn’t like. His Army buddy and lifelong friend Frank Cox remembered an escapade he shared with Nash in 1955. “We were stationed at Hennau, just outside of Frankfurt,” Cox said. “He was dating the sister of a German girl I was going with at the time. We bonded over motorcycles. The two of us bought twin BMWs and rode them down to Monaco for Grace Kelly’s wedding.”
In another adventure, Nash flew to Guatemala City to offer his services after the capitol was flattened by an earthquake in 1976. He was assigned the job of traffic control officer, directing supply trucks and rescue vehicles to wherever they were needed. Then in the early-1980s, he and his son Mark embarked on a round-the-world journey that took them through 20 countries. “It was a five-month odyssey,” Mark Nash recalled. “We biked across China, trekked through Nepal, rode camels in Egypt, and eventually found our way to Europe.”
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Nash was a lover of the Colorado Mountains, and harbored a long-standing fantasy of someday owning his own hot springs resort. That opportunity finally came in 1997 when Hot Sulphur Springs Resort went on the market. Nash bought it and moved to Grand County to renovate it into the spa it is today.
In 2007, he moved back to Denver to look for new challenges. Sadly, his last project, the Bell Tower Residences in the city’s historic San Rafael neighborhood, would prove to be his undoing. The plan called for the conversion of New Hope Baptist Church into four luxury condominiums. But a year into construction, the economy tanked, and by the time he completed it in 2010 there were few, if any, buyers out there for million-dollar condos. The bank re-possessed the building in 2011, leaving Nash, then 80 and suffering from peripheral neuropathy, both financially destitute and physically disabled. He died on June 11, 2012. As per his wishes, a portion of his ashes will be scattered at his beloved Hot Sulphur Springs.
A memorial service and celebration of the life and work of Charles Nash will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 30, at the Auditorium at Park Place, 111 Emerson Street, Denver
Contributed by Don Morreale, freelance writer and close friend of Charles Nash