GLENWOOD SPRINGS (AP) – Slowly, the historic Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs is revealing secrets that have remained hidden for over seven decades.
In 1942, during World War II, the U.S. Navy leased the hotel for use as a hospital. During that four-year period, walls were erected and many details of the elegant Grand Dame of the Rockies were buried under wood, plaster, carpet and vinyl.
The Melville family of Aspen, who purchased the 130-room hotel last year, announced shortly after the change in ownership their plans to update and restore the structure.
Renovation on the nearly 126-year-old structure began in early January.
“We are trying to bring back all the elements that show the elegance and style of when this hotel was built,” General Manager Christian Henny said. “The first phase will start the transformation and bring the old girl back to her glory.”
The renovation task of the first phase, restoring the 9,000 square feet of meeting rooms on the main level to their bygone days, is well underway.
“We are trying to be authentic, but bringing it into modern audio visual equipment, so you can have modern meetings in a historic setting,” Henny said.
The Roosevelt, Taft, 1893 and Gallery rooms are the first to undergo the transformation.
As workers slowly peel back layers upon layers, work has uncovered three intact original fireplaces and the original floor in the Taft Room.
With the removal of three ceilings, a wall and several bump-outs in the Roosevelt Room, crews unearthed two brick fireplaces. One was still fully intact and another had the face chiseled off.
The ceiling now towers over 15 feet high.
Hotel Director of Sales Jeremy Gilley said the room feels twice as big with the false ceilings removed.
In the 1893 Room, construction workers exposed a hidden door that accessed what once was a large storage room that had been made into three smaller storage rooms. The rooms were only accessible through the meeting room behind three separate doors.
Another untouched fireplace was found in the Gallery Room, and hotel officials hope that it can be restored to working order as it shares a wall with one of the lobby’s large fireplaces.
Henny said the rest of the fireplace flues were filled with concrete when the Navy occupied the hotel.
The third fireplace was located in the Taft Room on the west side of the hotel. An access door that led to the Devereux Room was also found in the room next to the fireplace.
Norman Bacheldor, general contractor and part owner, said the surprises didn’t end after finding the three intact fireplaces.
The crown jewel of the uncovered gems was found when workers were unable to find a flat surface in the room. So crews began to remove more flooring, including layer after layer of carpet and heavy vinyl flooring.
“And, all the sudden, holy smokes, there was the original floor,” Bacheldor said.
It wasn’t your average wood floor, either. It was constructed with narrow planks of longleaf yellow pine.
“You can’t harvest it anymore. It’s now a protected species,” Bacheldor said.
With a little research, they have found out the wood had to have been around 100 to 200 years old when it was installed in the hotel in the late 1890s.
Hotel officials are being very detail-oriented with the renovations. That includes the wood molding, for which crews have gone to great lengths to recreate the same pattern used by the men who built the hotel over a century and a quarter ago.
“It’s new wood, but we are replicating the same style it would have had when it was put in 126 years ago,” Henny said.
Hotel officials said they are working with an Amish company in Indiana to create 8-foot-tall walnut doors of the original height, style and paneling to replace the existing doors that were added over the years.
Once construction is finished on the Roosevelt, Taft, 1893 and Gallery rooms, crews will move onto the Colorado Room and then the Devereux Room.
Everyone involved is excited to see what else is hiding behind the many additions and changes made to both the Colorado and Devereux rooms over the years.
“There is a rumor that there is a Navy mural,” Henny said.
Bacheldor said no one has been able to tell them that they have ever actually seen the mural.
“There’s a chance that the mural is in the Devereux Room,” Henny said.
Renovation on the rooms is slated for completion in April.
Phase 2 of the project will move upstairs, where they will begin work on a new model guest room.
Henny said when the room is complete they will go through a vetting stage allowing guests to stay in the room, collecting feedback before the multi-year project will continue to the rest of the hotel.
“We are just excited to bring the hotel back ... and really paying attention to historic details. And we’re really looking forward to showing it off to the community, and being the place in town,” Henny said.