As the first train of the year steams into Silverton Saturday, the Grand Imperial Hotel in Silverton will reopen, restored to its former glory and charm, and a full day of festive fanfare is planned.
A company controlled by Al Harper, who owns the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, bought the 133-year-old hotel last April, and crews have been renovating the building for months.
Excitement surrounding the project has grown in Silverton and among riders, said Jim Harper, president of American Heritage Railways Hotels, Inc.
“The town could not have been more friendly, helpful (and) eager to point out where we should improve, how we should improve, the type of furnishings that should go in the rooms. ... It’s been a great 13 months,” said Harper.
The crews started by upgrading the building’s electrical and plumbing. They have also replaced the carpet, renovated the bathrooms and tried to bring in some modern amenities, like high-definition TVs, Harper said.
“We’re really putting the charm back into the rooms with antique furniture,” he said.
The hotel will host free tours Saturday as part of a block party that will close down Greene Street between 12th and 13th streets.
Harper is expecting about 1,000 people at the event that will feature live music from The High Rollers, a Durango-based country-western band, and other musicians.
The Silverton Fire Department is also putting on a fireworks show that is planned to rival the Fourth of July.
If you want to attend, plan on driving to Silverton because tickets on the first train of the year have sold out.
“We added additional cars to accommodate the overwhelming response,” Harper said.