Curious Colorado Town!
34 years ago, Don and I spent some time with my brother, exploring small towns in Colorado.
Teller County Hospital
This is the photo I took when we discovered the hotel in 1985. We were eager about the idea of a staying overnight, in an 84 year old building. We were even more excited that the building had originally housed a hospital, that treated the local miners from the last Colorado Gold Boom. We hiked up that long set of stairs, to learn more.
Earlier that day, we had toured an old gold mine. Our guide was a retired miner who was missing a finger, from a mining accident. He shared some interesting stories about the thousands of of men, who had worked in the dangerous mines, in the late 1800's.
Our Eerie Photos
In my old hotel photos, Don and Chris look humorously hesitant. But I'm pretty sure we 3, were more than thrilled about the place. We were quickly welcomed by the host, who invited us to look around and chose our rooms.
We had a giddy time exploring. Like most old hotels, there were antiques. But there were also antique wheelchairs and operating tables and even a bedpan or too. Scary? No, just fun. I have fond memories and for decades I hoped to return.
On a road trip 6 years ago, I noticed Cripple Creek on the map. Don and I took a detour and dropped by to see if the hotel was still open.
I was pretty delighted to see the old building, which was by then 113 years old. I had totally forgotten the RV park on the property. I barely remembered the retro seesaw and monkey bars in front. I snapped some photos and once again hiked the stairs, before grabbing a brochure, for a future stay.
Six Years Later
This year, Don and I planned another Colorado road trip and we made sure to book a night at the Hospitality House. When we arrived on a beautiful day in early June, it took me a moment to figure out what was wrong.
That crazy staircase was gone! Where was that exhausting display of steps, that made me picture doctors and nurses climbing and gasping for breath... before they treated their patients! Of course, locals would have been used to the 9,494 elevation. Not me!
When I look at these now and then images, I just have to wonder why on earth they ever had all those stairs in front? Later when I spotted a photo from 1902, I wondered again about the ever-changing stairs. 117 years ago, there was a totally different, arched, double staircase, leading up to the entrance.
When we arrived this past June, I was glad I had a past photo to help untangle my memories. It was fun to study the changed exterior. The lack of stairs seemed to put the focus on the wonderful porches.
There was no climbing to reach the lobby this time. We passed some colorful hummingbird feeders and walked through a large sun porch to the first floor lobby. Right away we were greeted by one of the owners. Rick was very amused to hear that we'd stayed so many years ago.
Questions for Rick
The stories have been preserved as well. Rick gave me a 15-page write up, of the hospital's history. He laughed that it might be more than I wanted to know, but I was totally entertained!
A Cripple Creek Native
Don and I also had some fun talking with Gary Lou, when she came on duty. Gary Lou was surprised to learn that we had been guests, 5 years before she began working at the hotel. She was born in Cripple Creek, possibly around the same year I was born in Indiana. I wonder if they had any paved roads in Cripple Creek, when she was born? There was only one in 1985.
She told us Room 201 in the hotel, was named after him. St. Nicholas
Hospital from 1898
I'm guessing Gary Lou was born at the nearby St. Nicholas Hospital, where "Doc" practiced, after his earlier years at Teller County. Don and I had noticed the impressive building, high on a hill, when we first drove into town.
It was especially interesting to read more about "Doc" later. I learned that he had come to town in 1922, to find work as a miner. When he learned about the need for additional physicians, (40+ doctors wasn't enough) he took a 2-year medical course and began treating local patients. By 1942, the boom was long over and Dr. Denham was the only doctor in the county. He continued to practice (often supporting the hospital, with his own funds) until his death in 1984.
Exploring and Learning
My blog rambles a bit, but it's sometimes hard not to share the fun tidbits we learn with our stays. Our most notable nights, usually involve an enthused "people encounter" and Rick was just that. He did not bombard us with history. He only shared, when we showed sincere interest!
Rick pointed out a downstairs guest room, with a thought provoking history. The large guest room is now called the Outpatient Room. Rick said it had initially been a dorm-like space for men, who earned their keep by helping out at the hospital. The facility really had two purposes, when it opened in 1902. It was known as the "Teller County Poorhouse and Hospital". Lots to think about with that.
I was eager to head up to the floor, where patients once stayed and operations occurred. I remembered the staircase well... extra wide, to accommodate gurneys and stretchers.
Wallpaper and Transoms
I recognized the wallpaper from my old photos. The transoms looked different. Rick said the plain glass was replaced with stained glass designs, to block the intrusion of hall light at night. That was appreciated!
New and Old
I loved seeing the old radiator and the rocker, with lion heads. The wooden wheelchair looked familiar, but it was now roped off... so no playing, like 34 years ago.
The carpet had been replaced. I'm all for authenticity... but new carpet is nice!
I spotted an old doctor's bag and wondered who once carried it. Was the bag owner a doctor, who practiced in 1902... when 14-year-old, Roy Bourquin was rushed to Teller Hospital, after blowing off his hands, while playing with explosive powder?
Hopefully Roy's ghost was not wandering these hallways. Roy eventually became a resident at Teller Hospital, in the Poorhouse, I assume. He continued to cause serious problems with his love of dynamite, despite the fact he had no hands. He lived at the facility, until a more serious action sent him to prison, in 1922.
Don and I were mighty pleased that we were able to grab the Operating Room for our overnight! Some might shy away from the room's history, but we grinned with anticipation as we headed towards the door. Luckily I didn't know the story of Roy, when we walked in. I didn't picture the young pyromaniac being treated in our room... until right now. Yikes!
The room looked as clean as an operating room should be. I remembered peeking in this room years ago, but I didn't notice the odd doorway to the bath, until this time.
Our bathroom had once been the Scrub Room. My photo shows how the brown woodwork, is within a larger (white) frame. After the medical staff scrubbed up, they they would head through the large opening, to the Operating Room... I guess.
Our Own Scrub Room!
Bathing in the Scrub Room might not thrill all guests. But there are many options for others, who don't like to be reminded of the hotel's odd history. But, I loved our scrub room! Look at the old transom, hiding behind the toilet and shower. That was the room's other entrance, from the hall.
The original marble sinks and floor tile were impressive. The brass buttons on the floor didn't function, but I had fun imagining the physicians and nurses, working them with their feet.
Updated Just Enough
Our cozy room had been updated just a bit, since I peeked in 6 years before. There were new window treatments and the queen bed had new bedding.
Chairs and Windows
Our room wasn't huge, but there was enough space on both sides of the bed, for a table and lamp, a chair and even a radiator. I'm always thrilled when Don and I get our own lamps and tables in old hotels.
Three tall windows and the bright white tile, made the room seem even larger than it was. In fact, our room seemed much better suited for relaxing, than for operating.
Time For Fun
Then and Now
Next, it was time to revisit some of our old photos. The photo of Don and Chris speaks for itself! It's lucky we were ever welcomed back after to Hospitality House.
This time, we respected the protective rope, for our photo op. Don didn't have nearly as much fun posing, without Chris.
Years ago, I stuffed a pillow under my sweatshirt, when we stayed in the Maternity Room. This time, we didn't have a third to take our photo and I was too old to play "Mommy". I popped a nurse hat on and cradled the pillow, instead.
Cripple Creek Donkeys!
This was a huge highlight for me! The friendly herd of 17, are believed to be descendants of the original donkeys that worked the mines. They are basically the town mascots, roaming the town freely from mid May through October. Healthy feeding is encouraged.
I was surprised to know that a local club has cared for the donkeys since the 1930's. I never spotted any critters on our past visits. We wondered how the residents feel about these critters. Rick assured me that the donkeys came first. "If you don't like donkeys in your yard, you're encouraged to build a fence." I love that.
The cutest donkey moment, was when two seemed to snuggle up, in the middle of the street. I told Rick later and he told us the donkeys often hang out with their favorite buddies. That made me a little sad, when I noticed the third donkey in this photo. He needs a buddy.
Solarium Happy Hour
It was time for Happy Hour, when we returned to the hotel, already in giddy spirits. Don and I remembered the second floor solarium, from years ago. It was the perfect place to celebrate!
Gary Lou gave us some ice and Don made a couple martinis... although they look like glasses of water in this photo. Hmmm? We made a toast to the donkeys!
There were other guests, but we had the wonderful glassed in porch to ourselves. We spotted the actual wheelchair from our photo, 34 years ago. We were told later that the operating table (holding the baby scale) had actually been used for surgeries, in our room.
We didn't get around to checkers, but we loved lounging with our view through the glass. As the wind picked up, the surrounding trees became very entertaining. I could have sat there forever, but we needed to get some dinner.
Rick recommended a restaurant called, Maggie's. We walked about a mile to town and ate in the basement restaurant, which had once been the town morgue. The food was quite good and gave us energy for the uphill hike back to the hotel. As we headed up the hill towards the glowing, brick building, we were glad we were able to return... unlike some of the patients who ended up at the morgue, after their stay at Teller County Hospital...
Don and I slept well in the Operating Room. In the morning, we scrubbed up well and headed to the "kitchen" for our complimentary breakfast snack.
There were a couple of old stoves and an antique table, holding some decent breakfast options. We chatted with Rick one more time before heading off. He laughed at the photos I shared from our visit years ago. He gave us some great suggestions for a scenic drive to the nearby town of Victor and some old mines. We were off, in great spirits!
This time around was even better. (Except that Chris wasn't with us!) Don and I may be old geezers now, but we felt as giddy as we did in 1985. We had a hoot of a good time, rediscovering all the delights of the hotel.
While we enjoyed all the whacky medical stuff, we also appreciated learning about the history and the renovation.. and preservation. Thanks so much to Rick and Gary Lou for helping with that. This was not just an oddball overnight stay in a hospital building. We learned about its connection to the town and the people.
We left happy! We won't wait 34 years to return, this time!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!