A Not So Spooky Tour of Hotel Colorado
Bill Kight’s superpower is bringing the past to life. Not only is he the executive director at the Frontier Historical Museum, he transforms into Jasper Ward, one of the first settlers in the area, during the museum’s annual Ghost Walk fundraiser. Most recently, before the pandemic, Kight conducted Hotel Colorado tours illuminating its historic past, including its supposedly haunted guest rooms. Now that those rooms are booked with real life visitors, he has channeled his talents into crafting a self-guided tour of the hotel’s public spaces which will be available to visitors at some point soon.
Italian Palace in the Colorado Mountains
According to Kight, the best place to start your tour is in the courtyard where appreciating the vision of Walter Devereux is an eye-opening experience. An engineer-turned-silver baron, Devereux built Hotel Colorado as a nearly exact replica of the 16th Century Medici Palace in Florence, Italy. His goal was to make his hotel and the town an international vacation destination. Almost 130 years later, it is evident his vision has been realized.
While metropolises like New York City still had gas streetlights, Devereux, ever the innovator, brought electric lighting to Glenwood Springs. Hotel Colorado, including the guest rooms, was illuminated by Edison’s great invention—the light bulb. Additionally, for the rate of just $3 per night, visitors could stay in the hotel’s high-end rooms which included en-suite bathrooms. Lower priced accommodations on the third and fourth floors were still considered state-of-the-art but with communal facilities located at the end of the hallway. More recently, hotel guest rooms have undergone another comprehensive makeover bringing 21st Century luxuries to the historic spaces.
Reversal of Fortune
Unfortunately, a combination of events caused Devereux’s beautiful Grand Dame of a hotel to falter. The Great Depression and WWII had devastating effects on the tourism and travel economy. For a time, the hotel rented out rooms by the week or longer for paltry fees just to make ends meet. During the second world war, the Navy requisitioned the hotel as a convalescent hospital for injured sailors. To create a medically-friendly environment, the government ripped out marble countertops, plugged up fireplaces and tossed antiques out the windows. The upside was that 1,200 U.S. Naval members were treated at Hotel Colorado, a place neither the Germans nor the Japanese ever thought to look for the U.S. Navy!
If any of those seamen became overly rowdy, they were thrown in a brig set up in the basement as a temporary jail to cool their heels. The cells were eventually removed but Kight said the Glenwood Springs Historical Society has plans to rebuild one or two of them and turn the space into a satellite museum.
Legend Makes a Comeback
While most of the ghosts of Hotel Colorado’s past have long moved on, the hotel’s past is alive and well. Go on a self-guided tour, stay overnight in newly refurbished guest rooms and take a closer look Glenwood’s premier historic hotel that is once again fulfilling Walter Devereux’s dream of providing legendary hospitality to guests from around the globe.
Learn more and make reservations to stay at Hotel Colorado today!