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Historic Hotels of the High Country

There’s no better way to experience the real old West than with a stay in one of these 8 storied places



There’s no better way to experience the real old West than with a stay in a historical hotel. These eight storied places—each one lovingly restored to its original splendor—have become landmarks in some of the high country’s most captivating towns and fascinating destinations in their own right.

1. HASSAYAMPA INN (above)
Prescott, AZ, hassayampainn.com

THEN…
During the Roaring Twenties, residents of Prescott challenged El Paso architect Henry Trost to design a first-class hotel for the town, and even purchased $1 shares to finance its construction. Since its opening in 1927, the red-brick hotel has hosted many notable guests, from Clark Gable and Georgia O’Keeffe to Faith Summers, a heartbroken young bride whose spirit reportedly roams the halls to this day.

AND NOW…
Today’s guests enjoy a mix of old and new design details. A top-to-bottom restoration preserved the hotel’s original stained-glass doors, murals, hand-painted ceiling beams and 1927 elevator, and updated guest rooms with pillow-top mattresses, flat-screen TVs and free wireless Internet access.

 

2. STRATER HOTEL
Durango, CO, strater.com

THEN…
In 1887, Cleveland pharmacist Henry Strater saw the potential for prosperity in Durango and decided the town needed a grand hotel. The Strater cost $70,000 to construct and featured 376,000 native red bricks, hand-carved sandstone cornices and sills, and even a three-story privy. Western author Louis L’Amour preferred room 222 for its location directly above the Diamond Belle Saloon, a raucous ragtime piano bar.

AND NOW…
Since 1926, the hotel has been owned and operated by the Barker family, which has overseen improvements that began with the addition of bathrooms and continued in later years with fine woodwork and the world’s largest collection of American Victorian-era walnut furniture.

 

3. THE CLIFF HOUSE AT PIKES PEAK
Manitou Springs, CO, thecliffhouse.com

THEN…
In 1874, the town of Manitou Springs was a stop along a stagecoach run that stretched from Colorado Springs to Leadville, and this newly opened hotel was known as “The Inn.” The 20-room boardinghouse first hosted trappers and hunters, then the wealthy capitalists drawn to Leadville’s gold mines, and later, travelers who sought the healing powers of the town’s natural mineral springs.

AND NOW…
After a $10.5-million restoration project that repaired the damage from a devastating fire and years of abandonment, the hotel now offers 54 guest rooms and suites—most with mountain views—decorated in the style of the late 1800s, with unique touches like the Firestone suite’s dramatic domed wood ceiling.

 

4. HOTEL ST. FRANCIS
Santa Fe, NM, hotelstfrancis.com

THEN…
When the newly rebuilt De Vargas Hotel opened its doors in 1924—the original structure was destroyed in a mysterious fire—its patrons arrived wearing top hats and fine dresses. This was a first-class establishment, and guests were shown to their rooms only after providing their marriage licenses for review.

AND NOW…
Though the rules have been relaxed during the intervening years, the hotel’s style is every bit as elegant today. Inspired by the refined aesthetic of the Franciscan Missionary Order, its serene candlelit spaces showcase white Mexican marble, historical religious artworks, antique and locally crafted furnishings, and a fireplace mantel and single pane of glass that survived the 1922 fire.

 

5. THE WORT HOTEL
Jackson, WY, worthotel.com

THEN…
When homesteader Charles Wort purchased four lots in the heart of Jackson for $25 each in 1917, he dreamed of building a luxury hotel on the site. But first, the land would be used as a horse corral and Wort would operate what’s now the Signal Mountain Lodge in Grand Teton National Park. The eventual sale of that property financed the construction of the Wort Hotel, which opened in 1941.

AND NOW…
After surviving a destructive fire in 1980, the hotel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, fully restored and awarded a Four Diamond AAA rating and Forbes Four-Star rating. Reminders of the past are still evident—perhaps most notably at the Silver Dollar Bar, built in 1950 using 2,032 uncirculated 1921 Morgan silver dollars from the Denver Mint.

 

6. THE HARKNESS HOTEL
McCammon, ID, theharknesshotel.com

THEN…
Built in 1906, this former bank building “doesn’t fit the Western mold,” says owner and interior designer Aaron Hunsaker, who spent six weeks scraping layers of paint from its unique two-tone brick exterior. Many of its original and ornate details—transoms, trim and thirty 8-foot-tall arched windows—were hidden away for decades as the building became a mercantile store, post office and apartment building.

AND NOW…
Hunsaker’s remarkable renovation yielded eight spacious guest rooms and suites that marry original wood floors, millwork and 11-foot-high ceilings with new imported tile, crystal chandeliers and deep soaking tubs. His next projects: an onsite salon, spa and fine-dining restaurant.

 

7. PALACE HOTEL
Salida, CO, salidapalacehotel.com

THEN…
In April of 1909, the Salida Mail reported that no expense had been spared in the design of Ambrose Ramsey’s new Palace Hotel, where 44 sleeping rooms were furnished with brass-trimmed iron beds—complete with the best coil springs and $10 mattresses. Guests paid 50 cents to $1 per night for such luxury.

AND NOW…
It took Ramsey three years to build the Palace Hotel and current owners Fred and Vicki Klein just as long to restore the three-story brick building, transforming its original rooms into 14 suites. New and recycled furnishings blend with original details, including the bank-teller’s-cage-turned-front-desk and yellow pine woodwork, to create what Vicki describes as the hotel’s “edgy Victorian” style.

 

8. SACAJAWEA HOTEL
Three Forks, MT, sacajaweahotel.com

THEN…
Named for the woman who passed through Three Forks as she helped the Lewis & Clark Expedition make its journey west, this hotel has a history that dates back more than a century, to when the town was an important stop on the Milwaukee Railroad. At its core is the Madison House, built in 1882 and moved across town in 1909 to become part of a new hotel for train passengers and crews.

AND NOW…
In 2009, the Folkvord family rescued the building from nearly a decade of abandonment and set about restoring it, preserving many of its original details—woodwork, light fixtures, steam heat registers and the dark spruce beams that accent its 14-foot-tall ceilings—and adding modern luxuries to its 29 guest rooms and suites.  

SEE ALSO:
Unique Bed & Breakfasts in the Mountains by The Heidi Guide

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