Hotel Colorado

View our
special offers

Discover the Hotel Colorado and its magnificent Italianate-style architecture. This amazing historic hotel has hosted many important dignitaries, most notably U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.

Hotel Colorado, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2007, dates back to 1893.

VIEW TIMELINE

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, Hotel Colorado is a fascinating historic holiday destination in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. This magnificent retreat opened during the era of the “Wild West,” when the western reaches of the United States were defined by their unruly character. Pioneers often struggled to traverse the rugged topography, while bandits and outlaws prowled the countryside. Gunslingers partook in high-stakes games of poker at saloons throughout the region, and prospectors established mining towns in an effort to strike it rich. It was within this exciting—yet tumultuous—environment that mining engineer Walter Devereux decided to open a magnificent hotel in Glenwood Springs, then known as "Defiance." Defined by its rough, rustic people, Devereux felt that the settlement was in dire need for a taste of modern civilization. Aspiring to open a destination that would rival the great Grand Dames of Europe, Devereux instructed his architect, Edward Tilton, to design a structure that closely replicated the Villa de Medici in Rome. Construction began in earnest in 1891, and cost some $850,000 dollars to complete. To demonstrate the project’s expense, the construction would have exceeded $23 million dollars had it occurred today! Tilton endeavored dearly to create a building that fit Devereux’s specifications, although he wound up using local materials like Roman brickwork and Peach Blow sandstone to craft its iconic appearance. When the construction finally concluded some three years later, it stood as a spectacular example of Italianate-style architecture.

Christened as the “Hotel Colorado,” Walter Devereux was thrilled with his new destination. He held a massive party to celebrate its grand debut, which was attended by some 300 different families. An orchestra played all through the night in the central ballroom, while a brilliant cascade of fireworks rained across the skyline. Needless to say, the guests were absolutely stunned by what they encountered. Devereux had clearly spared no expense in creating the Hotel Colorado, installing some of the finest amenities and facilities that money could buy. All the guestrooms featured the latest décor, and a terrific 25-foot waterfall flowed in the central lounge. Outside, a beautiful pool with an electrically-lit fountain shot waterspouts several hundred feet into the air. Word spread quickly of the hotel’s splendor, attracting visitors from all corners of the nation in the following years. Some of those guests were the most influential people in the Union, such as Margaret “Molly” Brown. The wife of a prominent mining executive, Mrs. Brown would later earn the moniker of “unsinkable” after her harrowing escape from the RMS Titanic became famous throughout the world. Even great dignitaries also visited at one point or another, including several U.S. Presidents. In 1901, Theodore Roosevelt—who was then only Vice President—traveled to the Hotel Colorado, using the location as the base for a hunting trip. The future president enjoyed his time so much that he returned to the building for several years thereafter. Then, in 1909, President William Howard Taft arrived to experience the tranquility of the surrounding landscape. Led to the location by a parade of carriages, President Taft spent the morning speaking before a crowd of some 700 people at the hotel!

Even though national prohibition became a federal law in 1920, Colorado had already enacted its own stringent temperance legislation a few years prior. As such, communities throughout the state abruptly stopped serving alcohol. But rural outposts like Glenwood Springs had emerged as bastions for rumrunning and other illegal activities. Many desperados took advantage of the situation, setting up illicit shops all over town. The Hotel Colorado was no different. When the notorious outlaw Diamond Jack Alterie sought to establish himself as a local kingpin, he used the facility as his headquarters. Several rooms within the Hotel Colorado became lively speakeasies, hosting such notable mobsters like Al Capone. The activity eventually came to an end, though, when the state repealed its Prohibition ordinances in 1933. But the Hotel Colorado soon assumed a completely new identity during World War II. In 1943, the U.S. Navy managed to lease the entire location as a medical facility that it named the “US Naval Convalescent Hospital.” It continued to serve patients straight through the end of the war, with the War Department finally decommissioning it in 1946. In merely three years of service, the Hotel Colorado had cared for over 6,500 patients! Interestingly, the hotel also possessed a naval prison known as a “brig,” where eight individual cells resided in the basement. While there is no evidence that they were ever occupied, it existed due to the sole fact that any building serving as a base for the U.S. Navy had to have a brig onsite. Today, the Hotel Colorado continues to be one of the most fascinating places to stay in Colorado. Guests can still feel the destination’s exciting heritage whenever they walk among its hallowed walls.

  • About the Location +

    With the sweltering heat of the summer sun beating upon their necks, three miners—John Blake, W.M. Bell, and “Frenchy” Cleiopfar—began their trek along the Tennessee Path in 1878. All had toiled to find buried caches of gold and silver in nearby Leadville, Colorado, only to become frustrated with their lack of progress. Inspired by tales of riches hidden further away in the Roaring Fork Valley, they abandoned the town for supposedly greener pastures. But the area had already been occupied by the Ute Indians, who had lived within the mountainous region for generations. And to protect the Utes from land-hungry miners, the federal government had formally recognized their sovereignty over the area in 1868. Undeterred, the three men began their journey at the headwaters of the Eagle River, which flowed downstream to the confluence of the much larger Grand River (now known popularly as the Colorado River). From there, the group stumbled into Ute territory, specifically exploring a range of mountains called the “Flat Tops.” After scouring the region for signs of gold for several months, the men decided to return to Leadville empty handed. Nevertheless, they returned the following year, intent on expanding the scope of their search. Blake, Bell, and Cleiopfar eventually established an illegal mining settlement on the northern rim of Glenwood Canyon, calling it “Fort Defiance.” Historians today still speculate as to why the three decided to name their base with such a peculiar name. Some, though, agree that it was most likely an affront to both the local authorities and the Utes.

    Fort Defiance was just one of several illicit settlements that had appeared in Ute land, however. Upset at the lax federal enforcement of their rights, the Utes openly rebelled and attacked the many camps in the region. Yet, the uprising fell apart fast and the Ute Indians surrendered to the U.S. Army. While Fort Defiance remained a small, isolated outpost in the immediate aftermath of the fighting, more miners and land speculators gradually started to arrive from Leadville. But the new arrivals were enthralled by more than just tales of silver and gold—they now desired to mine the countryside for coal. John Osgood was perhaps the greatest coal miner to setup shot in the vicinity of Defiance, erecting a massive coke processing plant in the small community of Cardiff. Known as the “Redstone Coal Baron,” his operation featured close to 500 different ovens! Soon enough, those business magnates decided to remake Defiance into a proper town. Led by mining tycoons Isaac Cooper, Walter Devereux, and John Blake (of Fort Defiance fame), several prominent residents founded the Defiance Town and Land Company in 1882. It subsequently started building a formal street grid for the town on their behalf. But Cooper asked that the group rename the community “Glenwood Springs,” after Glenwood, Iowa. It had been the childhood home of his wife, Sarah, who was having great difficulty adjusting to life on the frontier. As such, Isaac hoped Sarah would find some solace in the name “Glenwood.” The other partners agreed to his request and the Town of Glenwood Springs was born.

    Initially, the settlement retained its rugged frontier character, attracting all kinds of gunfighters and desperados. But as the mining operations became more refined, so too did the character of Glenwood Springs. Some of the town’s founders contributed to the transformation directly by opening upscale businesses downtown. More commerce arrived to the community when both the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad and the Colorado Midland Railroad reached the town in the late 1880s. But the arrival of the trains heralded the birth of a new industry in Glenwood Springs—tourism. Passenger trains began to travel to Glenwood Springs, with their occupants disembarking briefly to tour the area. Over time, word of the area’s serene climate and largely undisturbed wilderness landscape reached the populous cities of the east. As such, a deluge of people began pouring into the town, making it one of Colorado’s foremost resort communities. Town founders Isaac Cooper and Walter Devereux in particular helped augment Glenwood Springs metamorphosis into a vacation destination. The two began constructing a “Glenwood Hot Springs Pool,” as well as a bathhouse for the neighboring Yampah Vapor Caves. But yearning to operate a similar attraction of his own, Devereux began building the Hotel Colorado shortly thereafter. (He had also hoped that the presence of such a wonderful business would provide a much needed source of culture for the residents of Glenwood Springs.) Debuting before hundreds of people in 1893, it quickly became the talk of the town.

    Additional hotels and inns followed suit, providing a wealth of new jobs to the community. Some locals had even opened a series of tourist attractions around town, such as Charles Darrow and his Fairy Caves. An attorney by trade, Darrow owned a homestead that backed up against some caves in the nearby Iron Mountain. Realizing their appeal, he strung electrical lights throughout the subterranean system and marketed it as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” (The Fairy Caves are still open today as part of the Glenwood Canyon Adventure Park). Needless to say, the strategy worked. Hundreds of people were now flocking into Glenwood Springs every year. Soon enough, some of the most powerful individuals in the country had traveled west to Glenwood Springs, including a few U.S. Presidents. President Theodore Roosevelt especially loved the town, visiting it frequently to host various hunting trips. As such, Roosevelt often stayed at the Hotel Colorado, using it as a temporary White House. Interestingly, some had arrived in Glenwood Springs to recover from various illnesses with the hope that the area’s wonderful climate would help them heal. The most famous person to convalesce in town was John Henry “Doc” Holliday, who had risen to fame for his role in the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Unfortunately for the legendary gunfighter, Holliday died during his stay and was interred in the town’s Linwood Cemetery.

    But the surrounding geography was still stalked by outlaws and renegades, including the infamous gang leader, Harvey Alexander Logan—otherwise known as “Kid Curry.” A bandit that once rode with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Logan was eventually gunned down leading his own gang in the neighboring village of Parachute. (He was then laid to rest next to Doc Holliday in Glenwood Springs.) That sort of criminal activity increased significantly when the Colorado legislature passed its own statewide Prohibition in 1916. Towns across the Colorado frontier quickly became illicit outposts for rumrunning and similar illegal activities. Glenwood Springs was no different. Many local businesses—including the Hotel Colorado—opened secret speakeasies, which rapidly emerged as lairs for gamblers and gangsters. Some of the most famous criminal masterminds established themselves in Glenwood Springs at the time, such as Diamond Jack Alterie. In fact, Alterie used the Hotel Colorado as his headquarters and hosted the likes of mobster Al Capone in the building’s clandestine bar. Around the same time, Glenwood Springs became something of a hotspot for Hollywood directors, who used the town as the set for their movies. Starting with the film, The Great K & A Train Robbery, in 1926, Glenwood Springs has been featured in nine major feature-length productions. Among the movies shot onsite have included Pressure Point, Flashback, and For Love of the Game. Today, Glenwood Springs has emerged as one of the leading holiday destinations in the entire United States. Its grand historical character and fantastic historic landmarks have made it beloved by locals and visitors alike.


  • About the Architecture +

    When architect Edward Tilton first designed the Hotel Colorado, he used Italianate-style design principles to create its iconic appearance. One of the first examples of Renaissance Revival—style architecture, Italianate is some of the most historic ever used in the United States. Despite its popularity in the United States, it was originally conceived by a British architect named John Nash at the beginning of the 1800s. Inspired by the architectural motifs of 16th-century Italy, he constructed a brilliant Mediterranean-themed estate called “Cronkhill.” Nash borrowed heavily from both Palladianism and Neoclassicism to design the building, both of which were derivatives of the Italian Renaissance art forms. Soon enough, many other architects began copying Nash’s style, using it to construct similar manors across the English countryside. The person responsible for popularizing the aesthetic the most was Sir Charles Barry, who had his own offshoot called “Barryesque.” By the middle of the century, this Italian Renaissance Revival-style architecture had spread to other places within the British Empire, as well as mainland Europe. It had even crossed the Atlantic in the 1830s, where it dominated the American architectural landscape for the next 50 years. Architect Alexander Jackson Davis promoted the style, using it to design such iconic structures like Blandwood and Winyah Park across New York. The form itself embraced an asymmetrical floor plan that was rooted to either a “U” or “L” shaped foundation. The buildings usually stood two to three stories, although some commercial structures—like hotels—exceeded that threshold. Large ornate windows proliferated across the facade, while a brilliant warp-around porch occasionally functioned as the main entry point. The porches would also have several outstanding columns, designed to appear smooth in appearance. Every window and doorway featured decorative brackets that typically sat underneath lavish cornices and overhanging eaves. Gorgeous towers known and cupolas typically resided toward the top of the building, too.


  • Famous Historic Guests +

    Tom Mix, actor best remembered for his role in such films like The Miracle Rider, Just Tony, and The Great K & A Train Robbery.

    William F. Cody, Medal of Honor recipient and showman known to history as “Buffalo Bill.”

    Margaret Brown, well-known socialite and famous survivor of the RMS Titanic.

    Diamond Jack Alterie, gangster who became a notorious affiliate for the Chicago North Side Gang.

    Al Capone, legendary mob boss of the Chicago Outfit who many knew as “Scarface.”

    Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States (1901 – 1908)

    William Howard Taft, 27th President of the United States (1909 – 1912) and 10th Chief Justice of the United States (1921 – 1930)

    Herbert Hoover, 31st President of the United States (1929 – 1933)


  • Women in History +

    Margaret “Molly” Brown: Born shortly after the American Civil War to Irish immigrants, Margaret Tobin “Molly” Brown was an well-known socialite during America’s Gilded Age. While she rose to national prominence following her harrowing escape from the RMS Titanic, she built for herself a career as an active civil rights activist and philanthropist. She spent her childhood in Hannibal, Missouri, where she attended the grammar school of her aunt before working at a local tobacco factory. Brown eventually left Missouri for Leadville, Colorado, in 1886, alongside his brother, Daniel Tobin, and their half-sister, Mary Ann Collins Landrigan. Upon taking a job at a local mercantile store, she met James Joseph Brown and the two quickly wed. They relocated to the small mining community of Stumpftown, where James’ established a decent career as a mining engineer. As James advanced up the corporate ladder to become a local superintendent, Molly began running soup kitchens for the families of the miners in town. Her work at the soup kitchens eventually connected her to the budding western branch of the state’s emerging women’s suffrage movement.

    The Browns finally reached affluence when James discovered an innovative way to access gold at the bottom of Little Jonny Mine. Moving to Denver with their new wealth in 1894, the Browns soon became significant players in Colorado’s elite social circles. Molly herself used her newfound status to help found the Denver Woman’s Club and to create one of the first juvenile courts in the entire country. Her political activities also increased over the next three decades, becoming a lively member of the Political Equality League and even running for a Congressional upon several occasions! Unfortunately, Molly and James separated in 1909. While the two never reconciled, they continued to care for one another as close friends for the remainder of their respective lives. Molly Brown took the extra time she had to travel the world alone, including a trip to Egypt in 1912. She did not stay in the country long, though, as she soon received word that her grandson had fallen ill. Boarding the RMS Titanic when it briefly docked in Cherbourg, France, she became a leading figure when it struck an iceberg just four days into its maiden voyage. Tales abound of how Brown assisted countless passengers into various lifeboats, before the crew finally persuaded her to evacuate. At one point, Brown had even taken an oar to help the small vessel escape the vortex of the sinking ship. Seeing the plight of people in the frigid water, Molly implored the lifeboat’s captain—Quartermaster Robert Hichens—to turn around. When the RMS Carpathia finally arrived to save the Titanic’s surviving passengers, Brown used her multilingual fluency to assist those who hailed from non-English speaking countries.

    Brown’s actions became known throughout the nation, with newspapers quickly giving her the moniker as the “Unsinkable Molly Brown.” She never let the fame overcome her, though, as she continued to work a variety of philanthropic causes for the rest of her life. Perhaps the greatest of those efforts emerged during World War I, when she campaigned for the American Committee for Devastated France. For her lifetime of charitable work, Brown received the French Légion d'Honneur in 1932. But Brown earned many other accolades posthumously, as well, including an induction into the Colorado Hall of Fame five decades later. Several theatrical productions have also immortalized her, such as the popular musical, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, as well as its subsequent film adaption starring Debbie Reynolds. In more recent years, actress Kathy Bates assumed the role of Molly Brown in James Cameron’s 1997 classic, Titanic.


Sign up for our Newsletter

Partners

  • HHW Logo
  • NTHP Logo
  • AA Logo
  • WHHA Logo
  • STE Logo