#7 - The Historic Western Hotel
Ouray, Colorado in Summer 2013
This hotel was quite the miner's palace when it was built during the big silver boom in the Gay '90's. When we arrived last summer, (way over a century later) jeeps were parked in front instead of horses and stagecoaches.
The hotel seemed to attract more people who were interested in booking outdoor adventure tours or dining in the saloon, than actually staying overnight. But Don and I were pretty excited to find out they still have rooms for rent!
The image of Prunes the Burro will always be stuck in my mind... a symbol of good little town and good little hotel.
The windows were welcoming with their painted words and stained glass. Once inside, the stuffed critters on the wall did the welcoming...along with some worn furniture and rugs.
That term is often used loosely, but this really is a family run business.
The Pieper family bought the hotel in 2002 and the young son checked us into our room.
Up We Go!
We followed the stairs up to the second floor, feeling a little giddy to check out our room.
We went all out and skipped the 35-dollar room with bathroom down the hall and spent only a few extra dollars for the honeymoon suite!
The Big Blue Room
Don and I just grinned when we opened the door. You have to love a room that's big enough to play Red Rover...or tag...or some other game kids played in 1891.
The wallpaper was original, but thank goodness the bedspread and headboards were updated... in the 1970's maybe?
We've stayed in a lot of historic hotels that are cramped, but this spacious room had 3 areas.
One area for sleeping, one for lounging and one for bathing.
In the Room
Yes, the claw footed tub and double sinks were right there, in the corner of the room. There was a privacy screen, in case the maid should walk in, but I don't think there was any chance of that.
I had to chuckle at the attempts to make the toilet private. But, we were only staying a night and they did have bathrooms down the hall if we preferred.
Room With a View
We had numerous windows with casually tied velvet and lace curtains.
One window was propped open when we entered, inviting us to climb out onto the porch where chairs awaited. (Hopefully not inviting others to climb in) But the best part was the view. Ouray is known as "Little Switzerland.
More Entertaining Features
The wallpaper as I mentioned, was old. We were particularly amused by an area of wallpaper that had a large hole in it.
There were some hints about the wall mystery written up in a few of the many guest books that we enjoyed. Evidently their are tales of a bullet in that wall. There were quite a few guests who wrote about witnessing ghost activity. I think I loved the children's entries the most. One young writer shared that she loved the hotel's "crikedi floors" and the bed. "They were kinda wore out, but sleeps like new!"
Back in the day, every Holiday Inn had a restaurant for your convenience. The Historic Western's saloon/restaurant was just a quick walk down the creaky staircase for us. We expected bar food, but discovered an impressive menu.
Owner, Rosemarie Pieper learned how to cook as a girl growing up in The Netherlands. She became a prize winning chef before owning the hotel with her husband.
Art & Conversation
While we dined, we studied the curious art surrounding us. The image on the floor was painted by an artist who traveled through the area with his mule years ago. He did the painting in return for beer. We also enjoyed chatting with some fellow diners who seemed surprised that we were actually staying at the hotel.
One man who had stopped in for a beer, laughed that his wife was back at the campground. He was never able to convince her to stay at the creepy hotel. But he appreciated old hotels, and told us about an old Harvey House hotel in Winslow, Arizona. Don and I haven't forgotten his enthusiasm and recently made reservations for the old hotel in April. (In the blog eventually) Another couple who seemed equally surprised that anyone would actually stay in the hotel, eventually walked up the staircase with us to have a peek at the room. I'm still not sure we convinced them with our enthusiasm, but they claimed it was nicer than expected.
I woke in the morning a little disappointed. There were no crooked picture frames or emptied suitcases. No signs of playful ghosts at all.
We may have no ghost stories to tell, but we heard some great hotel stories before checking out. Chef Rosemarie's husband Gregg seemed to be the storyteller of the team. It was fun to hear some pretty amazing tales about the characters and activity that took place at the hotel back when it was hopping in the late 1890's. Gregg's good humor and storytelling energy made us wish we had another day and could take one of his jeep adventure tours. Gregg's enthusiasm was fun to be around.
So What's Noteworthy?
I've hardly mentioned the town or setting, but that's what made the hotel most attractive.
The quirky hotel history and our oddly large, well-worn room (with unique bathroom set-up) is what made our overnight most memorable. But having a hotel run by a hardworking, good natured family is what made the stay comfortable instead of creepy! We would love to go back!
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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!