The drive from Columbia, Missouri, to Boulder, Colorado, was grueling. Twelve hours in the car is not for the faint of heart, even with a leisurely lunch stop in the charming downtown district of Salina, Kansas. But Blaise and I were rewarded handsomely as we drove into Colorado toward the sun setting over the Rocky Mountains. It just might be the most beautiful sight I have ever seen.
We were rewarded even more once we pulled into Boulder. Our lodging for the next two nights was at the glamorous Hotel Boulderado downtown, another hotel in the Trust's Historic Hotels of America program.
Our first morning there, we took a history tour of the hotel courtesy of Beverly Silva, a longtime hotel staff member and all-around expert on Boulder’s history. For every corner of the hotel, Beverly had a story -- like the one she shared about the mysterious spirits that have been felt in the very room in which I was staying. Anyone who knows me knows I love a good ghost story, so I immediately began plotting ways to catch a glimpse of my otherworldly roommate.
Ghosts aside, learning about the history of Hotel Boulderado became a great history lesson on the city. Back in the early 20th century, Boulder was a small but growing town, and city officials were determined to ensure its continued growth. The way to do that, they reasoned, was to build a world-class hotel.
And so Hotel Boulderado was born. To finance the hotel’s construction, stock was sold to local business owners at $100 a share. The money, it seems, poured in.
So too did the guests. Hotel Boulderado opened on New Year’s Day 1909, and more than a century later, it remains a centerpiece of the town with its elegant wooden staircase, lavish Victorian furnishings, and the fantastic stained glass ceiling in the lobby. (The original was destroyed in a snow storm in 1959; the one that currently bathes the lobby in a multi-colored glow dates to the 1970s.)
Today, the hotel is filled with pieces of Boulder’s history: an old cash register from a hardware store that was once adjacent to the hotel, early menus from the hotel’s restaurant, and grainy photographs that show the city throughout the decades.
While Hotel Boulderado feels like a time capsule of the city’s history, relics from the past are also clearly visible throughout the streets. Walk around the crowded Pearl Street Mall or the street’s neighboring East and West ends, and you’ll catch another glimpse of the city’s past -- one that started during the Gold Rush era, when the stores along this stretch of the city provided provisions for miners.
Today, instead of horse-drawn carriages and trolley lines, there are street performers and a farmer's market. And as one shop owner pointed out to me, every building in the area once housed something else, like the former mortuary on Pearl and 11th streets. Today, it’s a trendy new restaurant, Salt, where Blaise and I enjoyed a fantastic dinner.
Unfortunately, we only had one day to explore town, and a looming rainstorm kept us from hiking around the Chautauqua, a 40-acre site that provided cultural and educational opportunities to adults throughout the region in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. People continue to flock to the National Historic Landmark site for its tours and events, plus its access to miles of hiking trails.
Visiting that site will be at the top of my agenda next time I’m in town. This time, however, Blaise and I watched the storm roll in from our room while snacking on fresh fruit from the farmer’s market.
And no, I never spotted that ghost.