Stay With History: The Stanley Hotel

No trip to Estes Park, Colorado is complete without a stop at the town’s most famous hotel. The Stanley Hotel has a fascinating history and is reputedly haunted but it’s most famous for inspiring the Stephen King bestseller The Shining.

They offer a guided tour for a few dollars but we opted to just nose around a bit on our own. The tour offers stories as well as a look at areas of the hotel that are not public. However, you are permitted to independently explore the lobby and a nice museum area downstairs so you can get the gist if you don’t have time for a tour.

The hotel was built by Freelan Oscar Stanley – they called him F.O. – in the early twentieth century.

F.O. had invented a steam powered horseless carriage called the Stanley Steam Engine.

He and his wife Flora traveled west to Colorado in 1903 when his doctor prescribed fresh air to treat his tuberculosis. The doctor arranged for the couple to stay in a friend’s cabin in Estes Park and advised F.O. not to make any plans past six months.

That fresh mountain air must have been good for him because his health began to improve, prompting the couple to build their own home. That house still stands about 1.5 miles from the Stanley and remains a private residence.

As much as the couple loved the beauty and benefits of the area, they were accustomed to the culture and refinements of the east coast and craved something more. So they set out to build a luxury destination that would rival any of the fancy hotels back East and entice the wealthy into the mountains.

Construction on the Stanley began in 1906 and was finished in 1909 with no expense spared. Built in the Georgian architectural style, it was equipped with all modern conveniences including running water, electricity, telephones and en suite bathrooms. It wasn’t heated at the time because it was designed to be a summer resort destination.

Guests had at their disposal a fleet of vehicles, uniformed staff and any number of activities to keep them entertained. It is said that the town grew and flourished because of this hotel.

It has hosted many famous people over the years including Teddy Roosevelt, the Unsinkable Molly Brown, Bob Dylan and John Phillip Sousa. Remember Radar O’Reilly from the tv show MASH? The actor who immortalized this role was Gary Burghoff. He stayed there and they have a picture of him playing the concert piano in the ballroom.

Sadly, the hotel was in decline by the seventies and it seemed destined for the wrecking ball when a young author came knocking. Stephen King spent a single night in Suite 217 in 1974.

He and wife Tabitha actually arrived as the hotel was closing down for the season so they mostly had the hotel to themselves. He was inspired by the grandness of it all, the remote location and by the eerie emptiness. They ate alone in the dining room, accompanied by canned orchestral music that drifted down long, empty corridors.

By the time they left, he had created the bones of The Shining which was published three years later and was set at the fictional Overlook Hotel. Twenty years later, the Stanley would serve as backdrop for the tv mini series version of The Shining.

It was also used in the movie Dumb and Dumber.

Today, it has been painstakingly restored to its former glory and has been expanded to offer different kinds of accommodations, spa services, events and dining experiences. At an average of $450 a night, it was beyond our accommodations budget but we did enjoy nosing around and taking it all in.

The view from here is spectacular and I imagine that a stay would be a splendid retreat. It would be a fun place to celebrate a special occasion too. Learn more about the Stanley at their website!

Western Adventure, Year Four

For the last four years, my friend Johnna and I have met somewhere within driving distance of her Wyoming home for a girl’s trip. I look forward to it because it provides much needed time with my friend and because we go places I wouldn’t likely visit on my own.

We met in Denver last week, each of us with a wish list of things to do. We accomplished almost everything we hoped for and a couple of extra things too.

On this trip, we stumbled into some great places to eat and shopped a good bit because it got dark so early. We visited the Colorado State House, Molly Brown House, Stanley Hotel, Botanic Gardens and the Garden of the Gods.

We wandered far and wide, sometimes aimlessly and often with purpose. It was magnificent. All of it.

Denver weather was mostly pleasant at a moderate upper sixties with beautiful blue skies most of the time. Of course, the wind was so strong for a couple of days that it would knock you over and that only worsened during our drive up to Estes Park. The wind was so bad I told Johnna that if you tied a helium balloon to a small child they would float away.

I came home with a phone full of pictures and a ton of memories to share with you. I’ll follow my usual pattern, sharing some in the next few days and then start weaving them in with other stories from other places over the next several weeks.

I can’t wait to show you some of this stuff and I’m hoping you enjoy the armchair journey as well. Come back tomorrow. We will visit my favorite new diner!

Golden, Colorado

Visit the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and you’ll find Golden, Colorado. It’s a former gold rush town with cute shops, nice restaurants and this fabulous arch.

They’re known for outdoor recreation and for the Coors Brewery which is the world’s largest single site brewery.

This is a statue of Adolph Coors who founded the company in 1873.

The day we were in this area, we paid our respects to Buffalo Bill, walked a trail along Clear Creek, ate some good Mexican food and shopped.

We also admired this view from downtown Golden.

We saw only a small bit of the town but I wouldn’t mind staying there someday. It’s quaint and it seems like there’s a lot to do in the area.

Looking through these pictures reminded me that we haven’t talked about Buffalo Bill, his museum or his grave. I’ll try to rectify that soon because it was a good experience.