The Hotel Boulderado has been a downtown Boulder landmark since it opened on New Year's Day, 1909. Back in 1905, when Boulder, a city of 8,000 was not growing quickly enough, the only way that city council members felt they could improve their lot was to provide the "comfort of a first class hotel." Stock was advertised at $100 a share to raise the necessary funds. A spokesperson for the Commercial Association (forerunner to the Chamber of Commerce) said, "We have invested our money in the enterprise because it represents Boulder's greatest need. We shall be glad of returns, but shall be infinitely gladder if we secure a hotel of such beauty of proportions and architectural design that it will stand as a monument to her permanency and pride in her enterprises. Let it be the Hotel Beautiful."
It was named for the words "Boulder" and "Colorado" so that no guest would forget where he had stayed. To provide its guests with every human comfort, all bedrooms were fitted with light fixtures that ran on both natural gas and electricity. Unseen men were busy 24 hours a day stoking the huge coal furnace to provide hot water and to keep the hotel evenly heated, and telephones were installed in most of the 75 rooms. Rooms varied in price from $1.00 to $2.50 per day.
Famous guests included Helen Keller, Douglas Fairbanks, Ethel Barrymore, and Louis Armstrong.
The Boulder Hotel has come full circle from late Victorian luxury, through a shaky beginning in the teens, prosperity in the twenties, fall in the Depression, post-war modernization, deterioration, and finally, restoration to its original 20th century grandeur. Hotel literature from the 1920's stated that "every guest may expect the best and get it."
The same holds true today.
The hotel was designed by William Redding & Son. It is a combination of Italian Renaissance style with Spanish Revival features. The four corner towers, paired tall narrow windows, and bracketed cornices are indicative of the Italianate style, while the iron railings on the large east side porches, arched fourth floor windows and curvilinear gables are all Spanish Revival features.
As you enter the hotel from either Spruce or 13th Street, the hotel's foundation is clearly visible amongst other Hotels in Boulder Colorado, made of large blocks of orange-red sandstone from the no-longer-active Colorado Red Sandstone Company of Fort Collins.
The thousands of red bricks in the original historic building probably came from the Thompson Pressed Brickworks, which was located on land that is now part of the University of Colorado campus. The bricks were intricately laid in rows four deep for warmth and durability.
Up until 1963, a brick portico covered the Spruce Street entrance. Two storefronts were located on either side of the entrance. Throughout the years, the businesses occupying these spaces included a clothing store, barber shop, Western Union, and even the Chamber of Commerce. The west side space has been converted to a function room and the east side is now the popular Corner Bar.
As you enter the hotel's main entrance on 13th Street, you will see the Emporium Gift Shop on your left. Early in the hotel's history this was the ladies' writing room and parlor, where ladies dressed in long gowns relaxed before dinner. On your right is Q's restaurant. This location has gone through several evolutions, from formal dining room to a casual 1950's coffee shop, complete with soda fountain and prime rib dinners for $1.75; to Winston's Seafood Restaurant in the 1980's and Teddy Roosevelt's Grille in the 1990's.
As you enter the lobby, you will see the hotel's famous stained glass canopy ceiling. In 1906 when the Boulderado was still in the planning stages, San Francisco was hit by a massive earthquake. The Palace Hotel, which had set a precedent for leaded glass canopied hotel lobbies, including the inspiration for the design for the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver, was completely destroyed. The hotel architects incorporated the Palace's leaded glass ceiling design on a smaller scale, importing their cathedral glass all the way from Italy. Unfortunately, a heavy snowfall on the roof in 1959 broke a skylight which fell and damaged a section of the ceiling. Regrettably, the entire canopy was removed and replaced with red, white, and blue Plexiglas. In 1977, a new ceiling was designed and installed to bring back the feel and warmth of the original. A $65,000 renovation of this ceiling was completed in 2004.
Another famous feature is the original cantilevered cherrywood staircase, extending from the basement all the way to the fifth floor. The balcony overlooking the lobby is one of Boulder's most popular photography points and is the place where many couples have exchanged their wedding vows throughout the years.
The entire mosaic tile floor you see in the entryway, lobby and dining room is original. The elevator in the lobby is the original Otis and requires one of our staff to manually operate the cab between guest floors. The hotel's original safe is still behind the Front Desk and some of the hotel's archived guest registers are on display by the 13th Street entrance. The water fountain to the left of the Front Desk dates back to the days when the Arapahoe Glacier supplied most of Boulder's water.
In the hotel lobby's south entryway and on the first floor of the North Wing, you will find large glass cases displaying historical artifacts from the hotel and Boulder. Take a stroll up the staircase to the fifth floor to see the life-sized portrait of Honey Bee Lennartz, a Boulder teacher who frequently enjoyed lunch at the hotel in her later years.
You will find framed newspaper articles, old menus, and historic photographs of the hotel and the Boulder area throughout the lobby and along the skywalk to the North Wing.
Read the full history of the hotel, including the ghost stories in "Legend of a Landmark, a History of the Hotel Boulderado", by Silvia Pettem, published by the Book Lode LLC and available in the Boulderado Emporium.