RENAISSANCE OF A NATIONAL HISTORIC TREASURE
The Beaumont Hotel was once known as the "flagship hotel of the western slope" of Colorado. Although weathered and worn through years of neglect, the Beaumont Hotel remains an architectural treasure located in the historic mining town of Ouray, Colorado.
Nestled in the majestic San Juan Mountains of Southwest Colorado, the town of Ouray was founded in 1876. The town was named after Chief Ouray, a famous chief of the Ute Indians. By 1880 the mountains surrounding Ouray contained between thirty to forty mines including one of the most famous gold mines in Colorado, the Camp Bird Mine.
Leading citizens of Ouray knew that if the smaller mines were to be developed and Ouray County was to rival the mining production of other Colorado Counties, investors must see for themselves the great mineral wealth in the San Juan Mountains. Ouray forefathers knew the soon to arrive railroad would open the opportunities for investors and tourists to arrive in great numbers. A grand hotel was needed to impress visitors with the fact that Ouray was a prosperous and growing town. Word would spread of Ouray's natural beauty as well as the mining opportunities. Money would be invested and jobs created.
Such was the vision of the five partners who built the Beaumont Hotel in 1886. The weathervane announcing that date still sits proudly atop the southwest tower. "Beaumont" was the name chosen for the new hotel and appropriately the name means "beautiful mountain."
Considered the finest hotel on the western slope in its heyday, the Beaumont Hotel was built with a French influence of multiple facades creating a European townscape effect. The original furnishings were from Marshall Field's in Chicago and the dining room staff were trained at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver. But the Beaumont Hotel was not only a hotel for investors and tourists enjoying Ouray's famous therapeutic hot springs. In many ways, the Beaumont Hotel was the social, political, and activities hub of Ouray.
Through its history, the Beaumont has changed hands several times. In 1964, the hotel was purchased by Wayland Phillips and in a dispute with city government she boarded up the hotel in 1967 and it remains closed today.
Today, even though listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the formerly elegant Beaumont Hotel sits boarded up, falling down, and painted pink. For over thirty years, locals and visitors alike have walked down Main Street past the Beaumont Hotel and wondered why it sits neglected and alone. No lights shine through its covered windows and no one can see in.
Ouray's "pink elephant" for the last three decades now has new owners and new promise that it will be restored to its former grandeur.
The new owners of the Beaumont Hotel, Dan and Mary King, want to involve the community in plans to restore the property to its original prominence in Ouray. The Kings, principals of High Peak Resources, Inc., have been part time residents of Ouray for eight years and are committed to preserving this beautiful historic building that is such an integral part of Ouray's heritage and that will play such a key role in Ouray's future.
High Peak Resources, Inc. acquired the Beaumont Hotel and an adjacent two-story commercial building from the estate of Wayland Phillips in the Spring of 1998 in a sealed bid process which fascinated townspeople and garnered statewide attention. The auctioning company termed the Beaumont Hotel sale "one of the most exciting real estate opportunities in the San Juan Mountains." The century-plus-old Beaumont contains 39 hotel rooms, a rotunda with skylight, a cocktail lounge, a theatre, and a large dining room / ballroom.
Upon entering the lobby, the effect of the open, three story rotunda and grand staircase washed in natural light from the overhead skylight is stunning. The skylight being the same size as the rotunda, is one of the most beautiful features of the hotel.
The second floor is approached by a grand, solid oak stairway leading to a walkway around the rotunda, around which are grouped the guest rooms, dining room and ballroom.
Stepping into the dining room and ballroom with its twenty foot high ceilings it is easy to imagine being dressed in fine evening attire, with musicians high above the room in the orchestra gallery, and dancing beneath the thirteen foot high Roman windows.
When reading descriptions of the numerous social events held at the Beaumont Hotel, a person can easily imagine the Beaumont's past. In 1896, The Ouray Herald described a ball at the Beaumont given by Camp Bird Mine founder Thomas Walsh:
"The dining room was especially beautiful with festoons of bright smilax overhanging the massive banks of pink and white chrysanthemums and carnations. Various colored globes were supplied to the lights throwing a soft mellow glow over the many fair dancers who tripped the light fantastics until early hours
The gentlemen were attired in the faultless conventional evening dress while the ladies were perfection in attire composed of rich fabrics and adorned in profusion with brilliant diamonds and other precious stones all presenting a scene of rare beauty."
Even today, sadly abandoned and neglected for over 30 years, there is
an energy about the building that one senses when looking into the deserted rooms.
The Kings don't see the Beaumont as an old decaying building. They see the Beaumont as a place full of memories past and yet to come. They plan to dust off the elegant lady and stand her up again to reopen a colorful page of Ouray's history.
Dr. Doris H. Gregory pondered the Beaumont's fate in her 1989 book, Ouray's Beaumont Hotel, A Century of Ouray's History:
"As tourists and the people of Ouray look at the Beaumont they ponder its future. Will the day come when it too will be brought back to life and restored so that today's children and later adults might again see and enjoy the beautiful Beaumont as it once was? ..the story of the Beaumont ends unfinished and only time will tell the final chapter."
The Kings are prepared to write the next chapter but planning, design, and construction will require time and patience. "The Beaumont's success will grow out of the King's vision of what is appropriate to the town as well as a responsiveness to the features that make this building great," says Nan Anderson, architect in charge of the Beaumont restoration. "We are delighted to be part of the team .we're already looking forward to a very exciting opening day."