Victor, Colorado 2022
We arrived in Victor, on a sunny day last June.
It was the 15th day of our New Mexico/Colorado road trip. I was sort of grumpy when we pulled up to the Victor Hotel.
I took this photo from the car in 2019. It was at the beginning of a road trip and I was not grumpy. The cute gold mining town with a few dirt roads, looked inviting.
It seemed odd to have such a large hotel in such a tiny town. But when The Victor was built in 1889, there were 18,000 people living in the area. It seemed like this hotel could offer up a Notable Night experience, in the future. It went on the list.
We put the Victorian Victor on the itinerary for this past June.
It was around 4:00, when we arrived on a Thursday afternoon. There were more cars on the street than I expected. We learned that the community was gearing up for the annual Gem & Minerals Festival.
Lots and Lots of Messages
We parked and headed towards the corner entrance. The windows distracted me with lots of messages, taped to the glass.
Some notices were curious. "Oddities Alley" Hmm? The sign on the brick amused me. "WATCH OUT FOR FALLING ICE/SNOW". One repeated message was a bit worrisome. "House Keepers wanted!!!" All those exclamation points were alarming.
As we approached the front door, I took my eyes off all reading material and admired the brickwork. I could have missed the historic charm of the building, due to all that window clutter.
Then I went for the door, but it was locked. I realized we might find some assistance from one of those window signs. On one of the paper notices, I found check-in instructions, for arriving guests. After some fumbling with my cell phone, I finally got the needed info.
In the Lobby
I punched the proper numbers into the keypad and we found ourselves inside. The quiet lobby wasn't exactly welcoming. A fat beam of sun was spotlighting the exposed foam cushion, on one couch.
I've adjusted to the world of self-check-in. I don't expect to be greeted by friendly staff at each hotel. But there was an odd feel to this place. And an odd arrangement of furniture.
Bank Block Building
We looked around a bit and found a couple interesting things in the lobby space. The bank vault in the corner looked like something from an old horror movie.
The vault was a reminder that this building was originally called "The Bank Block Building". It housed the Victor Hotel & Restaurant and other businesses over the years... a photography studio, jewelry story, soda fountain and grocery store,
Piano and Bar
By the side entrance, there was an old piano and a view of the restaurant and bar, above.
For a period of time, The Victor became a rooming house for miners. The piano didn't exactly look like an old ragtime piano you might find in a bar. But it was fun to imagine miners hanging out in the hotel's saloon, back in the day.
The New Victor
Above the piano there were some historic photos, that helped me imagine Victor, years ago. The vintage image of the hotel looked much like today, except for awnings and telephone poles and a horse and buggy heading down the unpaved street.
Back when this photo was taken, the hotel was called, The New Victor. The original (built 1894) was destroyed in the big 5-hour fire of 1899. The hotel and business district was rebuilt quickly and now most buildings have the year 1899, written on them.
It was clear after reading more notices propped up on the lobby counter, that no one was around to answer our questions.
"...If you need anything, text me. The Management"
It was tempting to text my most nagging question, "What's with the very odd furniture arrangement?" Why in this large lobby, did I see a couch and 10 chairs awkwardly gathered near the office counter? An intimate book club gathering? A bible study? An AA meeting? I noticed the 2 speakers and thought of live music... but for a crowd of 12? Or maybe a puppet show in that window?
Then came the really important question. "If we get trapped in the old elevator, how long will we have to wait to be saved?"
Since my cellphone hardly worked in the lobby, I had a good feeling my cell wouldn't be useful inside the birdcage!
Don offered to stay put and let me test it out. He promised to get help if I got trapped. Haha. But honestly we were both excited about the vintage elevator. Oldest working one in Colorado, I believe!
I've been in elevators like this before, but they've all required staff to run them. I was amazed that we were allowed to operate this ancient thing. It made a lot of clanking noise, but seemed to work well.
We could have been more cautious and used the stairs, the rest of the time. But we were on the 4th floor and the 9,708 foot elevation was tough on us old geezers from Texas.
It was comforting to know there were stairs and we could race down them to the fire escape, if there was a replay of the 1899 fire!
I was happy to be on the 4th floor, for views and quiet. Nice to have no squeaking floors above us. However, according to guest comments on the internet, the 4th floor might have been the noisiest floor... due to ghost behavior.
Evidently, the top story operated as a hospital in the early 1900's. Not only did sick people travel up the birdcage elevator, but deceased folks as well. The 4th floor was also a morgue and sort of a holding cell for the bodies. Burial was impossible during the many months of harsh winter. What a thought!
Our Corner Room
Our door code worked and we stepped into our spacious room. My eyes were drawn to the light. The arched windows were impressive! The bed making job wasn't so impressive. I cringed to think about the House Keeper notices.
But that was my grumpy-self reacting. The room looked clean and there were fun little accents like the golden radiator! I worried less about the sloppy bedspread when I pictured an overworked housekeeper rushing to make our bed. I stopped to sympathize and to appreciate our room price. Around $100. for this big room.
Headers and Stretchers!
When we entered the room, the windows were open and a table fan was humming away. I love open windows and I love fans with a good sound. I also appreciate interesting artwork above hotel beds. I'm not being sarcastic.
I was totally entertained by the comical jumble of brick and mortar. Especially after observing the meticulous exterior brickwork. Were these bricks once covered with plaster? I was so intrigued that I studied up on bricks, when we eventually found cell service. Those headers and stretchers created some unique patterns! I love new terms!
Tub and Sink
I'm guessing when miners inhabited this building, they had shared bathrooms and probably few tubs for all those hardworking (and very dirty) men. I'm not sure when our tiny bathroom was added, but I tried to be grateful for the tub.
There was no room for a sink in the bathroom, but we had a very old school sink in the room. Not much space for ditty bags.
I loved the view. The late afternoon light was pretty on the distant mountains. Morning was lovely as well.
The windows allowed me to keep an eye on Victor Avenue, below. The town was gearing up for the festival and I could spot road block materials. We ended up moving our car, although I doubt they do much car-towing in Victor.
Sitting a Spell
While I pondered parking, Don checked out our sitting options.
The nearby wardrobe was actually pretty handy, with its hidden TV, microwave, fridge and coffeemaker. That was helpful, since we were uncertain about dining options in the small town. We at least knew there was a small general store with food.
The Victorian chairs fit nicely with the hotel's history. But after a few minutes, Don realized the chairs did not fit his needs.
Don's become pickier about chairs, in past months. Victorian furniture does not help with healing a fractured back. Even I was groaning a bit, when I sat and felt a metal piece poking up from the cushion. So I made a sneaky swap with some hall furniture.
Food & Drink?
I attempted a search on my phone for restaurants, but cell and internet coverage was too weak. I grumbled, then headed out on foot.
It was actually wonderful wandering down Victor Ave, with all the tidy 1889 buildings lined up. I made some fun discoveries, but no open restaurants. I wondered where the 400 Victor residents dined. The saloon next door seemed to have a good portion of residents, on their patio. But they were smoking and drinking, not eating.
Side Door Cafe at The Victor
I took a peek into our hotel's restaurant. There were no diners, but it was at least open and looked sort of cute.
The Side Door also had patio seating. The red chairs filled up a little later, with a smoking crowd. A lot of smoking in Victor.
The Bar Loft
Around 6, Don and I decided have a drink and grab some food-to-go, from our hotel bar. We got a seat overlooking the lobby. Our bartender Lisa was pleasant to us, but she mumbled and fussed a lot with the locals. I ordered a glass of wine and Don made the mistake of asking for an "Old Fashioned". Lisa didn't know what that was. Don wised up and ordered a beer.
We chatted with a local woman who was concerned about crime in Victor. She said someone had bent the handicapped sign near her apartment and a cat was hit and killed on 4th street. She'd had enough and she was moving to Cripple Creek. Other locals insisted that wasn't a good reason to move...
After a while Don and I asked to order some food to go. Lisa said the cook didn't like doing carryouts, but we were welcome to take the plates to our room. That worked for us.
Elevator at Night
By 9 pm, Don and I had eased into our quirky hotel. Our grumpy moods had lifted with a little TV and a decent burger. I just chuckled and skipped the soupy, cheese-less artichoke dip. It felt like we were back to our flexible traveler-selves. I told Don I'd take the dirty dishes down to the bar.
I rode the elevator down (At Night!) without any disturbances. The ghost of Eddy the Miner, did not appear. Eddy was a miner who lived in Room 301. He fell to his death about 100 years ago, after stepping through the opened elevator door. For some reason the elevator hadn't arrived. So many eerie stories!
Question for the Bartender
Lisa seemed to be in good spirits when I found her cleaning the bar before closing up. She acted surprised and grateful that I'd bothered to bring the dishes down.
I headed down the steps to the elevator and Lisa looked over the half wall, to thank me again. I waved goodnight, then paused and asked, "What's with those chairs?" Lisa looked at the seating arrangement and seemed to search for the right words. "Oh! There's gonna be an event on Saturday. There's gonna be a show with... what do you call it? You know, crossdressers." Hmmm? I wondered while she tried to jog her brain. "Oh, yeah! Drag show! That's what it is. They're gonna have a drag show at the Oddities Event!"
So I headed up in the elevator feeling totally amused and confused and then I remembered the poster I'd seen in the window. I got my answer, but I still couldn't figure out the seating. A "drag show" for an audience of 12?
Don and I both woke long before 6 am, with light coming through the huge windows. Neither of us minded. It was wonderful to get out early and roam around town.
During our less than 24-hour visit to Victor, we ended up meeting some nice locals and travelers.
One of our favorite encounters was in the morning, chatting over coffee with a traveling couple, in the bakery. They invited us to come see their hotel, a block away.
It was hard to tell which of us had picked the stranger hotel. They were staying in the Jack the Ripper Room at the Black Monarch.
So our stay at The Victor had led us to a fun encounter and suddenly we were adding one more hotel to our list!
Back to Check Out
After lots of wandering, we checked the time and hurried back to the hotel. The door was propped open, so we walked right in and found a lobby full of chairs.
Don and I raced up to get our bags. I did a quick job swapping the chairs back and we headed down the birdcage one last time.
Good Bye Odd Lobby
The lobby had such a different feel with morning light and people... and more chairs for the drag show! Don checked out at the little window with an actual living person.
Violet was the mystery host. She was a human, not a texting number. She said she was so excited about all the weekend festivities. She was going depart soon and get into her period costume and enjoy the festival! For a moment I actually wished we could have just one more night. It would definitely be a Notable Night on Saturday at The Victor!
We stayed in a 133-year-old hotel, in a town of 400, during the third summer of the Covid Pandemic, on the 15th day of our road trip. I should have kept my expectations a little lower. I was sort of grumpy.
The town and hotel both need a little boost, but I'm so glad we came and experienced and gave some business. We arrived grumpy but left happy. Who knows, maybe we'll return!
We recently stayed at a Boutique Hotel. The website called the Patterson, an Inn. A wonderful breakfast was included, so shouldn't we say B&B?
None of those fit. I'd just say, we were guests at an Impressive Mansion, for one night! That works.
In 1891, State Senator Thomas Croke built this grand looking, red sandstone home, on Denver's Capital Hill. It had even more embellishments, than it does today.
Croke lived only a short time in the home, before selling to another Senator named Thomas. Senator Thomas Patterson was actually a U.S. Senator in later years, but he and his family, moved into the stately mansion in 1893. The property has changed hands numerous times in 130+ years.
When I first spotted the mansion from across the street, I thought of a French chateau. Then I thought of the beach. I was reminded of an elaborate sandcastle.
Even the carriage house on the right, had turrets and towers.
From our parking spot on the corner, I studied the side of the house and wondered where our room would be. It was perfect weather for sitting out and I longed to relax on the lower terrace.
But, I was pretty sure the terrace was for the use of guests in the DaVinci Room. I viewed that room on the website, when we booked. It was $75. more, but the spacious room also came with a fireplace and a sunroom. The rounded room with windows, was visible in back. Ahhh... next time we'll splurge.
It was a little early for the 3:30 check in, but we headed up the stairs to the arched doors.
The doors were locked, but we were soon greeted by Phoebe. A few days earlier, I'd chatted with her, when she called to welcome us in advance and ask about food allergies. That seemed surprisingly gracious for a hotel in 2022!
We followed through 2 sets of doors. Once inside we were met with a grand, yet somehow homey space. Fresh flowers, stained glass and lots of lovely wood.
It was hard to imagine this home in the 1970's, when it came close to demolition. It was rescued but never renovated properly until recent years. By 2010, the vacant building was under contract to become a group facility for homeless men. That didn't happen,
As we followed Phoebe into an office area, she pointed out the entrance to the breakfast room. It's been about decade since the mansion was gutted and turned into a B&B.
I've seen "before" photos and they did an amazing job. I believe the woodwork and intriguing fireplace are all original.
Haunted Guest Room?
Just across from the breakfast room, I noticed the door to the DaVinci Room.
Could that room have once been the Patterson's bedroom? I should have asked.
I read that Senator and Katherine Patterson both died in the home. He in 1916 and she in 1902. And then there was another resident (Dr. Sudan's wife) who committed suicide in the house in the 1940's. Ugh. I guess we don't need to know more specifics about these deaths. I do know this home is considered one of the most haunted on Capital Hill.
Up the Stairs
Phoebe was warm and chatty as she checked us in. We were told about breakfast and given coupons for free drinks in the basement lounge. Then she had us put our luggage into the elevator. There was just enough room for the bags, so they traveled alone.
We headed up the beautiful stairs to the second floor. Since the elevator only went to the second floor, we grabbed our bags and headed up some more stairs.
It was a more narrow stairway to the third floor. The floor where the servants once lived.
Inside the Turret
The third floor may not have been the most luxurious in its day, but it seemed the most intriguing. Phoebe opened up a door not far from our room and switched on a set of tube lights.
She pointed to the glow from a window, at the end of the odd passage. We were invited to explore. The round room was the inside of a turret.
There was a sloppy circle of carpet inviting us to sit a spell. We didn't, but we did pause to wonder about all the people who have looked out this window over the years.
It was odd to see the crude, wooden interior of the cone. From the outside, the pointy roof looked so perfectly smooth.
As we peered out the curved glass, we hadn't yet heard the story about the dogs who supposedly leapt (or were thrown) from this window.
I learned later about the pair of guard dogs, that fell to their death in the 1970's. The vacant mansion was being renovated and there were problems with theft and vandalism. The dogs were left in the building overnight to scare away troublemakers. In the morning they were found dead below the (open or broken?) window. I can see why we Phoebe avoided that story while we were up there.
The guest room where we stayed was right beside the turret. It was a little confusing, but Phoebe hinted that the somewhat hidden turret, might have been open to our room at one time. Later we went outside and I looked up at the rounded window directly beneath the cone. That's where we'd been looking out.
There was also a good view of the two dormer windows, beside the turret. The windows look much smaller in my photo, than they did inside our room.
Room No. 9
Phoebe showed us to our room with the brass plaque. I didn't think about it until later, but the other 8 rooms had names like "Biltmore" and "Prague" and "Cheshire". Surely there's a reason for the "No. 9" name!
The wonderful angles and bold stripes were a fun surprise when the door opened.
Our dormer window gave the room a little nook for a desk and chair. Love a window that goes to the floor! And more bold stripes!
It was entertaining having our room in the front of the building. I could spot the gold dome of the capital. Did Senator Croke walk to work?
Pops of Yellow
I was happy to have something different than Victorian furnishings. I liked the bold black and white, along with splashes of bright yellow.
There was no claustrophobic attic feel to the room. The steep roofline, gave us a lots of headroom. That pleased Don, who often has to watch his head.
The bathroom was wonderfully spacious and bright.
Having separate sinks was a treat. The hotel we'd stayed in the night before, barely gave us room for a toothbrush.
Four mirrors and lots of light! I could pretend I was in my dressing room, sitting down to apply make up, before hitting the stage! Not bad for staying in the servant's quarters.
I like to make use. I made sure to allow time for a luxurious bath. I loved it that the tall windows had frosted glass and I could happily open the drapes. Poor Don was less pleased. These fancy tubs are tricky for tall people, but the rigged shower and curtains worked well.
I was also happy to realize the "fancy phone" was not just a prop. There was indeed a dial tone. I wanted to make a call... just to make use. But in this cell phone age, that means I'm required to remember phone numbers. I made no calls.
12 Spirits Tavern
There were so many fun and funny surprises during our stay. The basement lounge had some good ones. The sneaky entrance from the street had no sign, so it felt like a speakeasy.
The Tavern had just recently opened to the public. Hotel guests were given a couple comp. drink tickets. Word of mouth seemed to be how other visitors had learned about the place.
Looking Around for Spirits
The Tavern was named for the 12 spirits, that supposedly roam the mansion. Don and I took a quick peek into some areas of the basement, in case any were lingering in the shadows.
We only found an old laundry sink. We found no old cigars boxes or animal cages. We'd heard that Senator Patterson had a cigar lounge in the basement and in later years a vet lived had his office in the basement. Were there any little ghost animals?
Social Time in the Tavern
The basement felt more cozy than eerie. It felt like a neighborhood bar, where a few locals gathered. Don and I felt like we were hotel guests AND locals at the same time, when my local friend Martha, came and joined us in the Tavern.
We actually wore these fine glasses the next day, but we should have put them on while we visited in the 12 Spirits Lounge. These whacky glasses could have scared spirits away... while we sipped on spirits!
After Martha departed, Don and I shared a couple goodies from the Tavern menu. The general manager, Scott served our drinks and recommended the Savory Hot Pie, with bacon, maple syrup, sherry and thyme.
The Grilled Cheese with sourdough, Brie, Gruyere, caramelized onion and cranberry-tomato jam, was equally satisfying and reasonably priced at $6 and $8. A delicious surprise, in the basement!
Owner, Chris and Scott made the atmosphere welcoming. Chris chatted with us earlier about how he'd had his eye on this mansion years ago, but finally became the latest owner, during the pandemic.
He verified what I'd read in a Forbes article about plans to open a licensed "Marijuana Consumption Lounge" in the coach house portion of the inn. And what an interesting conversation that was. Chris was actually open to hearing the concerns of an open minded guest who happens to hate the smell of pot. Not enough space in this blog post, but it was an interesting converstaion.
Evening & Night
Don and I were able to get out at dusk and enjoy exploring the neighborhood on foot. What a beautiful walk, spotting the mansions in the area once known as "Millionaires' Row".
We returned in time to see a "Ghost Tour" standing on the corner. Too bad the group spotted us going in, or we could have dashed up and flashed lights in the turret room.
The yellow walls greeted us in the morning at breakfast.
A chalkboard above the fireplace told us our sweet and savory options.
Where to Sit?
I had my eye on the cute round table in the turret!
But we were actually more comfy at the table beneath a very interesting framed photo. We sipped some coffee (which happened to be extra good) while we enjoyed our surroundings.
Curious Photo and Curious Floor
"Watching the Turtle - Xmas 1893" was written in the corner. Was this photo taken in the mansion? And what was with that turtle activity, anyway?
A close look at the floors was interesting. The design was nice, but the nails were odd. The carpenter must have used 100 nails per foot!
When Chef Wess appeared from the kitchen with our food, we were pretty darn impressed. I went for sweet, with Raspberry Challah French Toast!
Don did the savory. Fried Chicken Biscuit with Sausage Gravy! Man, were these tasty! The colorful gravy had an exotic flavor. Curry? Not even sure, but both were amazing. What a great addition to our stay.
We had our chance to ask Wess about his recipes, but after we raved about breakfast, we were off on other subjects.
Not only was Wess a great chef, but he was another pleasant member of the staff. He was about done with breakfast duties and had time to fill us in on some of his experiences, that got him to this point in his career. A very nice and humble guy.
Good Bye Neighborhood
We were able to late check out, so Don and I squeezed in one more long walk before heading off.
Here are just a few of the amazing mansions that have managed to survive the ups and downs of this historic neighborhood. Love them all!
We stayed on the top floor of a stately mansion, overlooking Colorado's Capitol. That's enough right there.
We also had great conversations and some memorable feasts. The location was a huge plus and the price was surprisingly low, for our Castle-like stay! ($275) Next time we'll go for the DaVinci!
Grand and Mysterious!
This is the beautiful hotel building, where we stayed in June.
The 3-story structure has been sitting in Aspen for way over a century. That's about all I know! The lack of historic info, feels mysterious!
Before we parked, I started snapping photos from the window. The building and setting was even more photogenic than the website images.
For a moment I thought maybe the structure wasn't really historic. The brick and stone looked flawless, as if it had been built to look old. There was a Disney World feel, with the brick walk, street lamps, flowers and shops.
We parked and approached and I was happy to see the sign above the corner window. Independence Building 1889. I prefer old.
Even though the hotel's website had mentioned the word historic, I had begun to wonder if they were referring to the historic location. Their focus was clearly not on the building's past.
The obvious entrance to the building, was at the corner. But not this door!
I very much doubted we would check in at the counter, inside a lovely Ralph Lauren shop. (I did step inside later and found a basic red bandana for $99!)
Down We Go!
To the right of fancy green door, I spotted the hotel sign. We passed by a very curious and steep, stairway.
The green sign welcomed us to a newer set of stairs. It felt like an adventure heading underground, to a lobby. More NYC than Aspen!
We headed down a few steps to a door, which led to more stairs. The windows, hanging light fixture and white-wood walls, kept things bright.
The host, Andrea greeted us from a desk, in the windowless lobby. She was welcoming and relaxed and offered advice about parking and restaurants. But Andrea didn't have too much info about the building's history. She only knew of its more recent years. "Condos..."
Up to Third
We grabbed our bags and headed up, in a modern elevator. There was also an interesting set of stairs. The open stairway seemed to float up from the basement.
The angles and levels seemed so modern. Could these be original stairs? Maybe they had once been enclosed in a stairwell? It was hard to imagine this modern space 100 years ago.
Before heading into our room, I peeked over railings and looked down halls.
There were nice sitting areas on the second and third levels, but not a person in sight. No sounds behind closed doors. It certainly didn't feel like a hotel.
Our hotel location was ideal! We were right in the heart of Aspen. A block from the slopes and right on Cooper Avenue Walking Mall. But parking was less than ideal.
After tossing bags in our room we moved our car from a temporary spot and headed with our residential street parking pass, to find a place to leave the car.
Food & Wine Classic
We had a map showing areas where we could park, but we drove in circles. Aspen was gearing up for their annual Food & Wine Classic.
The festival was a week away, but many streets were already blocked off. Tents were going up. It took forever to find a spot, but at least the walk back was entertaining and pleasant.
Back in our quiet "hotel" we settled into our room.
The high ceilings made the room feel a little more spacious. There was a lot of light wood in that room, from shutters to ceiling.
The room wasn't huge, but we appreciated the incredibly comfy leather couch. Table and chairs are always appreciated.
There was a noisy a.c. unit, but it was only needed briefly. It was pleasant having two windows that opened.
The distant mountain view was nice. I should have taken a shot of the square below. People watching in Aspen is entertaining and we had a fun view of a restaurant patio with lots of fashionable people.
I didn't see anyone dressed in this outfit, but I could have bought it for myself. It was in the shop window below us.
Good for Price
There was nothing outstanding about our room. Queen bed with a triangular table. Cowboy art. There was sort of a 1980's Alpine style, to the room. It didn't seem to be in the same era (or class) as the ritzy shops underneath us.
The bathroom was basic. I had issues with the shower and the sink. But again, we were in the heart of Aspen and our hotel room was under $250. That's incredibly low for Aspen, where nearby hotels were charging over $1,000. for a night. No real complaints.
Besides the hotel's location, the roof was a major highlight of our stay.
The rooftop had a 360 view of Aspen and the surrounding mountains.
Not a soul joined us when we headed up to catch the sunset.
We had the roof deck to ourselves, which made the hot tub all the more inviting.
We dashed downstairs and changed, then made use of the robes in the closet. How could this affordable Apsen hotel be so empty in June?
A little later I made a quick trip down to the street, to see how the hotel looked at night. My first surprise was seeing a nearly full moon above our building. (Looks a little more star-like in my photo.)
As I headed towards the entrance I looked up and spotted our room. I could see our 2 glowing windows, above Maverick's. That's the shop that sold "my outfit", as well as a Louis Vuitton western saddle.
In the morning we headed to the basement for our complimentary breakfast.
There wasn't too much out of the ordinary. There was yogurt and some burritos that could be microwaved. Some fruit and cereal.
We were the only guests sitting at the long table near the big bear. I sipped my coffee and wondered. It was becoming more clear that this was not a a true hotel, but privately owned room/condos that could be rented. Somewhere between a hotel and Airbnb.
By 11 we checked out, knowing nothing more about the historic building. But we left with some memories of great weather and wonderful walks.
We've stayed in 4 Aspen hotels over the years. For the price, this is the one with the most bang for your buck. I'd return.
The building was lovely and the location was outstanding, for $250. The vibe in the hotel was oddly quiet. And why have I found so little on the internet about this historic Aspen property?
After lots of searching I finally found one news article, from 1963. It said the building had just been purchased by a Mr. Robinson, the director of an Aspen skiing corporation. For some time it had been called the Prince Albert building. There had been shops below and dorms above. The new owner planned on keeping the Victorian flavor, when he remodeled. I guess that Victorian disappeared at some point.
And that's it for my research. I give up. I hope if someone knows more, they'll enlighten me!
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!
Curious Colorado Town!
34 years ago, Don and I spent some time with my brother, exploring small towns in Colorado.
We were pretty intrigued when we came across the town of Cripple Creek, with its curious name. Then, on the edge of town, we stumbled across the Hospitality House and we couldn't resist!
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. Some ended up at this hospital.
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 in 2019
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
We chatted with Rick about all the changes, since the hospital closed in 1960. He talked about the challenges they've faced since purchasing, in 2014... even though it was converted to a hotel in 1963.
It was a relief to know the hotel is in good hands, owned by folks who are loyal to the history. Renovations have been done with great care, preserving the beautiful structure and woodwork and even the wallpaper, wherever they can.
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. I wonder if they had any paved roads in Cripple Creek, when she was born? There was only one in 1985.
I knew Gary Lou couldn't have been born in the Teller County Hospital, since it was a nursing home by the 1940's. But, she said she was delivered by Cripple Creek's most well known doctor, "Doc" Denham. 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!
Our 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 that original 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
While our hall was free of other guests, Don and I decided to have some fun in the hallway, like we did back in 1985 with my brother. While being respectful of course, we did a little posing with some "props" and snapped a few photos.
I couldn't resist doing a quick photo pose with some wooden crutches I found in the hall. I promise, I was ever so cautious!
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 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 person to take our photo and I was too old to play "New Mommy". I popped a nurse hat on and cradled the pillow, instead.
Cripple Creek Donkeys!
After our fun with photos, we headed into town for a while. Rick sent us off with a baggie of mushed fruit and grain, to feed the sweet donkeys who roam through the streets and yards!
Again, I thank Rick for letting us know about Cripple Creek's donkeys! I have long been a fan of donkeys and would have been crushed, if I'd missed out on a donkey encounter during our stay!
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
We were in giddy spirits by the time we returned to the hotel. We were ready to celebrate with a little Happy Hour.
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.
Returning at Night
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.
Food on the Stove
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!
Our stay was every bit as enjoyable as it was 34 years ago, when I was in my twenties. Back then, Don, Chris and I acted more like happy teenagers, embracing the adventure of our hotel/hospital experience!
This time around was even better. (Except that Chris wasn't with us!) Don and I may be old geezers now, but our stay felt as playful as our visit 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, 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!