10 of Colorado's Top Historic Hotels
Colorado has plenty of beautiful and interesting places to stay, from yurts and tipis to cabins and covered wagons, but for a night’s sleep with a side of history, look no further than one of the many historic hotels around the state
1. HOTEL COLORADO
Opened in 1893 at an astonishing cost of $850,000 (the Beaumont in Ouray, which you’ll read about, opened just six years before and cost less than one tenth of that), Hotel Colorado was the idea of Walter Devereux who thought that the mining town of Defiance, as Glenwood Springs was originally known, needed a dose of European elegance as well as a touch of flamboyance which came in the form of a fountain that shot water 200 feet in the air and a 25-foot indoor waterfall.
Such was the grandiose nature of the hotel that it attracted the famous and the infamous including Teddy Roosevelt, Molly Brown and Al Capone (who is said to have used a secret tunnel to smuggle liquor into the hotel during prohibition), among others.
2. THE BEAUMONT
Listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places, the Beaumont Hotel was built by the Ouray Real Estate & Building Association at the height of the area’s gold boom at a cost of $75,000. Opening on July 25, 1887, it was considered by many to be the finest hotel in Western Colorado thanks to an elegant dining room and lavish furnishings. A mix of architectural styles, namely Queen Anne and French Second Empire with a Mesker Brothers cast iron facade and a slate Mansard roof, the hotel has played host to some notable names throughout its history including presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover, King Leopold of Belgium, Chipeta, widow of the Ute Chief Ouray, and French actress Sarah Bernhardt among others. Tours are offered by appointment.
3. THE STRATER
Finished in the same year as the Beaumont, the Strater Hotel is another iconic Colorado hotel. Bringing the history of Durango to life, the Strater was the idea of Cleveland pharmacist Henry Strater. Durango wasn’t yet a metropolis of any kind but Strater knew that if it was to become one, it would need a grand hotel.
Built at a cost of $70,000, the Strater is akin to a living museum, not only decorated with beautiful woodwork and period wallpaper, it is also home to a large collection of American Victorian walnut antiques which are scattered throughout the property, in both guest rooms and common areas. Even if you aren’t staying at the hotel, you are welcome to walk around the lobby and get a taste of the property.
4. NEW SHERIDAN HOTEL
Originally built in 1891 to accommodate the increasing number of prospectors who flowed into Telluride with hopes of striking it rich, the three-story wood-frame Sheridan Hotel burnt down just three years later. Rebuilt in 1895, this time in brick to reduce the chances of it burning down again, the new hotel was named the New Sheridan Hotel and remains to this day Telluride’s oldest and most historic hotel.
A thoughtful renovation in 2008 paid homage to the property’s history by retaining and highlighting the history with Victorian-style furnishings, details, fabrics, papers and moldings in the 26 rooms and common areas. The hotel is also home to the Historic New Sheridan Bar, Telluride’s oldest bar which has a beautiful carved mahogany bar and room dividers with beveled and lead glass panels.
5. MEEKER HOTEL AND CAFE
The Meeker Hotel and Café were originally housed in an adobe building which had been used as a military barracks. Charlie Dunbar, one of the original partners, was shot and killed during an argument about a card game a few months after the hotel and café opened for business, while the other partner, Susan Wright, died in March of 1893. She left her real estate and personal property to her brother, Rueben Sanford Ball who constructed the new Meeker Hotel and Café in 1896 at the location of the present Meeker Hotel. In 1904, the east and west wings were added to the building. The hotel has hosted some very well-known names of the years including Billy the Kid, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and Gary Cooper among others.
6. HOTEL JEROME
Jerome B. Wheeler, who made his money as a partner in the Macy’s department store chain, facilitated the building of Hotel Jerome by donating land and loaning the two innkeepers who conceived the idea for the hotel (they wanted to build a hotel to rival the Ritz in Paris) $60,000.
Going well over budget, the innkeepers, Bixby and Phillips, left before construction was complete and Wheeler was stuck with an unfinished building. He oversaw the completion of the hotel, and Hotel Jerome opened on Thanksgiving eve 1889. The three-story property had ninety rooms, steam heat, electric lighting, indoor plumbing (with hot and cold water), and the first elevator in Aspen when it opened.
With its fate mirroring that of the town, the Jerome emerged from a barren period to be resurrected when the ski industry revived the town’s fortunes.
7. GRAND IMPERIAL HOTEL
Commissioned in 1882 by perfume importer and mill owner W.S. Thomson, the imposing Grand Hotel was completed in a remarkably short 10 months. The Grand was so grand, in fact, that for more than two decades it served as the base of operations for the town of Silverton and San Juan County as well as being home to the local post office, a bank, a general store, a doctor’s office and the Silverton Standard Newspaper in addition to housing guests.
The Grand stayed open through the silver crash, the Great Depression and both World Wars, changing hands in 1951 and being re-branded as the Grand Imperial Hotel. The hotel changed hands again in 2015 when the Harper family, owners of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, purchased it and embarked on an extensive restoration project.
8. VICTOR HOTEL
Built in 1900 by the Woods brothers, the four-story Victorian brick building was a reincarnation of the original which burned down. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 20-room hotel was rebuilt to be larger than the original so the Woods Brothers Investment Company and the First National Bank as well as storefronts along the first floor could be added.
The “new” Victor also had an elevator which was used for, among other things, transporting the deceased up to the fourth floor when the ground was frozen where they were stored until the ground was thawed and they could be buried. It is for this reason that the Victor is said to be particularly haunted. Eddie is said to be partial to spooking the occupants of room 301, the room he was staying at the time of his untimely demise.
9. THE STANLEY
Built by inventor Freelan Oscar Stanley in 1909 after a visit to the area allegedly restored his health after suffering from consumption, the Stanley was a compromise between this wilderness wonderland and the sophisticated lifestyle he and his wife were used to back on the East coast. When it opened, the Stanley Hotel had electric lights, telephones, en suite bathrooms, uniformed servants and a fleet of cars.
The Stanley is probably most famous for inspiring Stephen King’s “The Shining” after he stayed there the night before it closed for the winter in 1974.
Falling into disrepair by the time King visited, it was quite likely that his visit and subsequent success with “The Shining” helped save the hotel. In the intervening period, the Stanley has undergone several rounds of renovation and today it looks as good as it ever did.
10. DELAWARE HOTEL
Built by the Callaway brothers from Delaware in 1886, what is now the Delaware Hotel was originally the Delaware Block. The Victorian building served as a monument to the brothers’ home state and is estimated to have cost around $60,000 to build.
Architect George King designed the building with space for storefronts both in front and on the Seventh Street side while the second and third walk-up floors had fifty furnished rooms that were suitable for offices and bedrooms. The building was fitted with steam heat, hot and cold water and gas lights.
Leadville was a classic mining boom town and during its heyday famous faces walked the streets with some staying at the Delaware including Doc Holliday, Houdini, John Phillips Souza, Butch Cassidy and Molly Brown.