The Old Miner's Hotel
In June, Don and I had our third visit to Ouray.
Now we've tried 3 of Ouray's historic hotels. I believe this was the only one built as a hotel for miners.
Hurray for Ouray!
Ouray might just be my favorite town in Colorado. It sits at 8,000 feet, but oddly feels low. The town is surrounded by 14,000 foot peaks!
The approach to town from the Million Dollar Highway, is hard to beat. Ouray's nickname, "Switzerland of America" fits it well.
In this photo from 1900, you can see the words St. Elmo Hotel, above the curved door. Catherine (Kittie) Heit, sits high on the stagecoach, to the right. She was the woman who built, owned and operated the hotel, until she died in 1915. Impressive woman for those times!
When I compare the vintage photo to my color one, the building looks the same. Red awnings in 2022. Coach and horses in 1900. Even the oriel window looks the same, except there was no man peering out in my photo.
The Ugly Years
After Kittie's death, ownership changed hands many times. The hotel was modernized and by the time this photo was taken, the building seemed to have lost much of its charm... and its oriel window. Hopefully it didn't collapse, when someone sat in the window!
With remodeling, rooms were enlarged and bathrooms were added. The miners didn't get their own bathrooms back in the day, but they did have a generous host. Ms. Heit was known as "Aunt Kittie" to the miners. She was evidently a mother figure and well loved in the community. She had a big heart for the lonesome and homeless and didn't always charge "the boys" who were down on their luck.
On Main Street
There was easy parking when we arrived on a Tuesday afternoon. St. Elmo was located at the quiet, south end of town.
We could see the lovely Beaumont Hotel to the north.
We had a nice stay at the luxurious Beaumont, in 2019.
To the South
To the south, we could see the San Juan mountains and remember our drive on the Million Dollar Highway.
Don was ready to relax and enjoy the evening after that white knuckle drive, with no guardrails! I actually didn't witness him gripping the wheel. Lucky for both of us that he's a calm driver.
This is how the lobby looked when we arrived about 4. Actually, it didn't look this empty.
There was a large family checking in. Some grandparents and adult kids and a very sweet toddler, were gathered near the green counter.
We were in no hurry. I took in our surroundings while the family got organized with rooms.
The wallpaper was intriguing, with all the patterns. I studied the formal Victorian decor and secretly wished the nearby family, Good Luck! This hotel didn't appear to be exactly kid-friendly.
We checked in with Dave after a bit. I think the family before us, wiped out his allotment of hosting energy. I had so many questions, but I was a little intimidated. "Later." I told myself.
I wanted to ask, What's was with the longhorn display? I wondered if Dave was from Texas? I wanted to learn more hotel history. But Dave seemed rushed. So I sat like a proper Victorian Lady and kept my mouth shut. Not really. (The photo was taken later and Victorian ladies probably didn't cross their legs.)
We got our key and Dave took us on a quick tour. We followed him through the doorway, away from the entrance.
We headed down the hall, where the wallpaper changed to green. He pointed through a door, to the breakfast room and another room with a TV and piano. Then Dave continued towards the back door. Was he taking us to some annex building?
He moved quickly towards the rear of the building and opened the back door. I nearly stumbled into him, when he came to a halt.
He pointed to the gravel lot and let us know we were welcome to park there. Then he pointed to a hot tub on a covered deck, but he wasn't clear about usage. Dave didn't mention anything about the ditch with the creek. I hoped the toddler didn't go wandering.
Our tour ended at the bottom of the stairs. Don and I lugged our bags up, in search of Room 6.
We paused under the skylight, waiting for the hallway to clear. There were 9 rooms and ours seemed to be situated right in the family's area. The Patriarch of the group headed into the room on our left... the toddler family to our right.
As usual, we booked the cheapest option. 18-day road trips require some skimping measures. Although it wasn't that cheap. Over $250 for our night. In 1898 Boarders were charged a dollar a day. Transients were $1.50.
The room was not grand or luxurious, but it was cute. I'm all for cute and cozy, but I'm not 6'2". Don got busy checking the chairs to see if they could possibly be comfortable enough for his frame.
My eyes were entertained as I took in all the busy wallpaper and tapestry art and chair fabric. The patterns and dark carpet made the tiny room seem even smaller.
We love historic hotels and many have tiny bathrooms. We've had smaller, but this one seemed extra small for the room price. But it was clean and a little updated. I'm always game for a claw footed tub, but Don was jumping for joy to not have that, as his only option.
The sink-in-room set up, was fine. Even if it took up valuable space. But I really don't like Styrofoam cups! A hotel that describes their rooms with the word luxury, should step it up a notch with glass. Even plastic.
The air was a bit stuffy, but there were a few fan options in the room. It was a lot faster to do what we rarely get to do in humid Texas. I opened the window! When I did that, I was surprised to hear the sound of the creek! It was a wonderful sound and I have no idea how that trickle of water, could sound like a mountain stream!
I never would have thought to open the transom. That seems like a no-no. But I noticed that the Patriarch next door had opened his. So I used the rod and sure enough it worked. Suddenly we had a nice flow of fresh air in the room.
The rooms on the front must have had great views of Main Street and mountains. But our side room and every room had a view. Ouray is the perfect little hamlet with mountains in all directions.
We had a roof and a patio in view, but the mountains and clouds beyond, were lovely.
It was a beautiful evening for wandering. No need for an Uber in this great town of about 1,000.
It always takes a while to adjust to elevation. Don and I made a stop at Goldbelt and enjoyed the upper patio. I shared Don's drink. A half a drink goes a long way.
Dinner at 7
We headed back to the hotel by 7. We had reservations for the restaurant below our hotel.
There's fun history about the Bon Ton Restaurant, that once stood beside the hotel.
Bon Ton Italian Cuisine
Bon Ton sounds like a 1970's restaurant, but the restaurant has been around since the 1880's. Kittie bought Bon Ton in 1890 and built the hotel some years later.
In 1898, St. Elmo opened and Bon Ton was moved to the new hotel. The vacant wood frame building was later used for a few businesses, including a Chinese laundry. It was torn down in 1924 and now holds the hotel's patio.
Eventually the Bon Ton Restaurant moved to the basement. Did the miners actually eat in the restaurant? Lucky miners if they did.
The basement was cozy with stone walls and tiny windows. Our staff was almost over attentive, but I really can't complain about that.
My Kittie's Cannelloni was packed with surprises and calories! Spinach, ground beef, sausage, ricotta, marinara, Alfredo, mozzarella! And the entrees came with baguette and herb butter as well as a fresh and generous house salad. Big A+ for our meal!
We slept well, despite full stomachs. Open air with cool temps and creek sounds surely helped. We headed to the breakfast room at 8:30.
Unlike my photo, the room was surprisingly lively. The toddler family and a few couples were all chatting with each other.
The table near the bay window opened by the time we had food. Dave's grown son was on breakfast duty and made our fried eggs and potatoes. He was very friendly considering he had just cooked eggs for about 15.
Where had these people been last night? The hotel seemed so quiet and empty.
Don and I finished up pretty quickly and took our coffee across the hall to the lounge.
We sat a while and pondered the hotel. I saw Dave walk by a few times. I hoped that he'd ask about our stay, so I could ease into a conversation. Not about history. I can get that on the internet. I was curious how he got into this biz. I pictured him preferring the golf course or a fishing weekend. Was I wrong? He seemed to be an odd fit for a boutique hotel. What was his story?
The location was excellent and the hotel was tidy and the room was comfortable enough.
The price seemed a little high for the room. If we'd had a welcoming host like Aunt Kittie, I wouldn't have noticed the Styrofoam cups or the tiny bathroom. I love a gracious and enthused host! That would have made our stay memorable!
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!