My American Road Trip, Part 4: Bouldering

Posted on: June 18th, 2012 by Lauren Walser 7 Comments

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.

Outside the gorgeous 103-year old Boulderado Hotel.

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.

Peering down historic Pearl Street, which is famous for being car-free (and still an economic generator, unlike many car-free Main Streets).

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. 

Boulder's West End.

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.

One new restaurant, Salt, is located in a former mortuary.

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.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Lauren Walser

Lauren Walser

Lauren Walser is the Los Angeles-based Field Editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys writing and thinking about history, art, architecture, and public space.

General, Reflections, Travel

7 Responses

  1. Lauren

    June 18, 2012

    You should collect HHA ghost stories for a Halloween post!

  2. Bert Drennen

    June 18, 2012

    You Missed the archaeological sites in Salinas. Don’t forget to visit some on your trip. I enjoy following you.

  3. Beverly Silva

    June 20, 2012

    Hi Lauren,
    You did a FABULOUS job on this blog post. It was a pleasure to meet you and Blaise, and I certainly appreciate you including the Hotel Boulderado in your story. I hope to see you again sometime. All the best wishes!
    ~ Beverly

  4. Paul Teicher

    June 20, 2012

    I have visited Boulder several times and have stayed at the Boulderado, beautifully restored and centrally located. I personally find the Pearl Street Mall, although both entertaining and a fine example of contemporary physical design, to be in conflict with the historical context of the street and its architecture, which were planned and built to accomodate vehicular traffic(horse and buggy at that time). Even though it is hard to argue with its success, I much prefer the streets outside of the mall area which still accomodate vehicular traffic (now automobiles) and more honestly reflect their historic past.

  5. Jimmy

    June 20, 2012

    Loved seeing the article about Boulder and your take on it,this is my Home town, I have moved to Iowa and I do miss it,I have gotten involved with our local MainStreet and try to bring some of the ideology that is Boulder to here.I plan on going home this summer it’s been 6 years!! Best place to eat though is Sushi Zanmai,or Connor O’Neil. Pearl Street is a total history lesson in itself.and if you go south a few mile outside of town is a very cool place called Eldorado Springs it rocks literally a mountain climbers paradise and a most excellent spring and creek there.

  6. William

    June 21, 2012

    I’m a Boulder native, and I remember the Boulderado in the old days. I don’t know what they tell you on the tour, but by the 1950s, the place was on the seedy side. There were a lot of traveling salesmen, and some of the upper rooms were rented to permanent tenants. The restaurant opened and closed a lot, and it was never “fine dining.” The lobby was fun, but you’d never suggest that anyone ever STAY there. The renovations are wonderful. The place is nicer now than it ever was.

  7. Dave Elchoness

    June 25, 2012

    Cool! You should check out Boulder-based Tagwhat while you’re on your road trip — mobile tour guide free for iPhone and Android.