Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Stanley Hotel, Summer Edition

Since this was Marci and Ren's last weekend as Summer Coloradoans,  she texted asking for ideas about something interesting to do. Guess what they picked?

Interesting comparisons, since I'd never been up during the busy season. 

1) You have to pay to park. If you eat at the restaurant, you can get the $5 credited to your tab. I'm not sure if they'll also do this for any of the tours or the bar.

2) Everything is green and in bloom! As beautiful as it was, I think I might just prefer the stark winter surroundings (and the lack of people) since it blends better with The Shining ambiance.

3) BUT, they've got their Patio Restaurant in full swing, which means you can dine in the fresh air under the giant umbrellas, which was very nice.  

Lunch: The Stanley Cobb and a Corpse Reviver

While we waited for our order, Ren ducked inside on my instructions to the front desk to check on tour availability, which leads us to summer difference 4) You don't buy tour tickets at the front desk in the summer. They have the tour room open in the basement and show a short film before you start, which we didn't get on the tour in November.

To the basement! And just look at all those ghosts in the haunted elevator!

The 100 year old Steamer Cars and Ovens decorate the place, although the big money was made in developing the dry plate photograph technology that was sold to Mr. Kodak once they were well-settled millionaires. F.O. and F.E. were twins of two school teachers. At age seven, their father gave them, when they asked for toys, a pair of jacknives and pointed them to a wood pile. 

Within a year, they were making hundreds of tops that they sold for a penny each, amassing a small fortune for 8 year olds of what amounts to a few hundred dollars in today's money. 

By sixteen, they'd carved working violins and taught themselves to play. 

waiting for the tour

5) The Summer Tour starts at the Concert Hall. I'm not certain this difference is just summer, since I remember our guide in November saying the Concert Hall was closed for a paranormal investigation the weekend we were staying. This is the view from the Hall's steps. 

The Hall was still not tour-able, since they were setting up for a wedding, but we were allowed to go upstairs and sit in the concert booth reserved for the Stanley's VIPs, including all the big money families visiting from back east. 

Remember (from past posts) that the Stanley wasn't a hotel while the Stanley's were in charge. It was a giant guest house, with a single men's quarters, workers' quarters, carriage house, etc for all their friends to come enjoy the crisp, healing mountain air that had saved F.O.'s life.

They ended up in Estes Park because F.O. was dying from tuberculosis and had traveled to Denver on the advice of his physician. He was in his early 50s. When they arrived in Denver, they realized one third of the population were sick, transplanted Easterners. F.O. did not improve and his Denver doctor gave him the run of his own little dirt floor cabin in Estes Park to try. While the doctor pitched it as a good way to recuperate, he confided in Flora that this was an opportunity for F.O. to die someplace beautiful and to contact him for help on removal of the body down the rugged mountain pass once F.O. . . . passed.

Instead, it saved his life. By the end of the summer, F.O. was walking five miles a day and had gained 20 pounds. F.O. and Flora agreed they would spend every summer in Estes Park for the rest of their days (both died in their 90s). But Flora insisted it not be in a dirt floor, two-room cabin. 

F.O. first built a 5000+ square foot home, but then moved on to what we know as the Stanley Hotel. He did collect $5-$7 from some of his guests on occasions, which went to funding lavish entertainment and to offset any notion of charity. Since most of the guests were millionaires, it was all part of the game.

The Tiffany light fixtures and ornate molding are all original. The decor of beige and white was throughout the hotel in Flora's reign, because it was a summer home that she wanted to appear clean and bright for her guests. We are still a long way away from any notion of hauntings.

Marci and Ren in the private concert box of F.O. and Flora, although I'm betting their chairs were a lot more ornate.

The hall itself is capacity capped at 200. In some of the early Stanley parties, they had 600 people in that space, including almost all of the town of Estes Park. They loved him. When Dunraven, the shady landowner, had hunted all the elk in Estes Park to near-extinction, Stanley loaded up cages and trained up to the Grand Tetons to resupply the town.

F.O. had bought the land where the hotel sits from Lord Dunraven in 1907, who'd worked out a scheme starting in the 1870s to land grab thousands of acres despite the 160 acre individual cap in place. The townspeople largely despised him. More on these schemes here.

While Dunraven never invited the nameless rabble of the town to his lavish soirees, F.O. took a different tack. And Stanley had provided the town with hydro-electricity, asking only that the townspeople bought their own light bulbs. (Side note: Stanley was also the only purveyor of light bulbs in the town. Convenient, no?)

The tent, center, is over the boarded up pool, that I had expected to see open during tourist season. 
I'm guessing the tent was part of the wedding, as the space looks like it currently could be a dance floor.

Outside the Lodge, which is currently a boutique hotel experience with spa. In the Stanley's day, it was the single men's building, who were not allowed to sleep in the same place as women. The women couldn't even bowl in the two lane bowling alley because they might show some ankle. Propriety!!

Then the tour stopped out front, which is actually the second stop on the November tour, when it started in the Pinon Room, which we didn't get to see this time around.

The hotel exterior was originally painted a sulphuric yellow, which was the most expensive color paint at the time and thus more indicative of the owners' wealth.

The Georgian architecture influences, with its symmetry, is slightly askew now, although I didn't have a panoramic lens to capture it here and wasn't able to get far enough back for a shot. On the left side, there are now five windows, while there are only three on the right. That's because they enclosed the porch that was once underneath the largest of the rooms (Room 217, Stephen King's infamous Presidential Suite).

View from the front yard, looking down on Estes Park lake and part of the town. This vista was one of three reasons the film crew who worked for Kubrik on The Shining  ruled the hotel out as the filming location. While King insisted the hotel in the film should be The Stanley, the production team said every single window (and there are a lot of them!) shows the town from some angle. In the novel, town was some 17 miles away and the hotel entirely remote. 

The other two reasons? 
1) Kubrik took one look at the interior of most of the large rooms and hated the "wedding cake" beige and white color scheme. He was making a horror film!

2) It just does not snow enough to create the boxed-in/trapped effect required for the narrative. That Colorado sunshine just melts it all away. Fun fact I learned on this tour and not the last: The snow used in a lot of the sound stage scenes for The Shining was borrowed from The Empire Strikes Back, as they were on the same London lot at the same time. 

Throughout the hotel grounds, the flowers are spectacular in early August!

For some reason, I don't have a photo of the next stop, the Caribou bronze statue which has caused a great number of male elks quite a headache (they try to fight the thing during mating season). One wedding was interrupted by a particularly stubborn and horny elk who had to be tranquilized before the festivities could resume.

Then we walked down to the Ice House, where blocks of the stuff would be cut in the winter and stay frozen through the summer. The House that stands now, however, is recent, built by the King production of his miniseries Stephen King's The Shining in the late 1990s. 

Not mentioned on this tour, but was on the last, in the back of the Ice House are the remnants of what happens to a Stanley Steamer car when left to the Colorado elements. The wood frame is marked 1910.

Hanging in the Ice House is the only photo of F.E. with his twin and his sister-in-law taken in Estes Park. He visited only once before his death. You can see the three in the car to the right. The beards pretty much give them away.

The Steamer Car held the record for fastest speed at 127 miles an hour for years before a gasoline car broke it. Since the technology allowed for a light wood frame and the steam, once produced (which could take an hour each morning) created great energy, the car could certainly fly. It could not, however, go terribly far without refilling the water, which is why the roads are carved right along the river on the way down the mountain. You could anything that would burn to keep the pilot light lit. And after that hour start up in the morning, you could just leaving it running until the night. 

It's other main problem was it didn't brake worth a damn. It took the length of a football field to get it stopped. F.E. just put a really loud horn on the car.

Also not  mentioned this time, F.O. loved to entertain his guests, so as they arrived in Denver and were taken by car up through the mountains to Estes Park, he would arrange for a man dressed a in bear suit to attack them, so the driver could run him away. Good stuff. 

We walked back to the main hotel and into the ballroom, which also functioned as the dining hall for a number of years.  

Original stage flooring is still in place, after 107 years.

Behind our guide, at the other end of the tables, is the place where Elizabeth Wilson, housekeeper, was blasted through the floor of the presidential suite, breaking both ankles. The storm of June 25, 1911 had knocked out the electricity, and the staff were going room to room and lighting the back up acetylene lamps, whose gas is colorless and odorless. A gas leak in the room ignited when Elizabeth walked in with her candle. When she awoke in hospital days later, there was F.O. waiting to tell her all her bills would be paid and she could come back and have a job with him for the rest of her life, as Chief Housekeeper. After an 18 month recovery, she did just that, retiring to her bed many years later in old age and dying peacefully in her sleep. The story goes, she didn't realize she'd died and just came right back on up the hill and kept on working, with repeated reports of strange housekeeping moments in Room 217, with things moved about and tidied up while the occupants were out of the room. 

This is the aforementioned enclosed porch that causes the hotel to lose its symmetry. 

The Tiffany fixtures in the ballroom are also authentic and original

past the grand staircase . . . 

And into Flora's Music Room. 
We didn't get to go in here last time!
This was the woman's only area, while the men were smoking and playing billiards in the Pinon Room next door.

Flora's piano she often played. It was brought from the train in Denver up the steep mountain dirt roads in the back of a horse-drawn buggy. 

the typical Georgian-influenced crown moldings

View from the Music Room windows of the front porch. You can see two of the three sets of stairs, although the closest set clearly ends at the railing. In the Stanley era, the three sets of stairs were to drop off the guests in their "proper" order -- men at one set, women and children at another, and the bags/servants at the third. Once the hotel was actually a hotel without class issues, the multiple staircases were retired, with only the center leading directly to the front doors left in place. 

On the main landing is hang the portraits of all the former owners, except the current one. He's declared that he will not have his portrait hung here until he is dead, hopefully avoiding the curse, ie every person on the walls didn't make a dime from the hotel. It passed from Stanley to subsequent owners who all went into foreclosure never seeing a single year of profit. It's first year in the black? 1995, nearly 90 years after it was built, and some seven decades after it first operated as a for-profit hotel.

more original Tiffany

I love that Flora always seems to be looking across at F.O., but F.O. is perpetually gazing out the window.

from the second floor

Now, these giant, almost fun-house sized mirrors are a new edition. They were not here in November, at least.

I had to take another photo of my fishing ladies. The one in the white shirt is particularly interesting to me. Her eyes also follow you from any angle you look at her. 

The Vortex at the staircase, right in front of . . . 

The Presidential Suite 217

and there's our room from November -- 215, which was once a part of the Suite.

And now, right beside 215's door, is another one of those gigantic mirrors

orbs and vertigo, galore

the Fourth floor, which was once a wide open area where the nannies and children bunked together
This is the floor where the most activity seems to resonate, with guests looking for who might be running up and down the hallways making too much noise and finding no one there.

The super-steep stairs up into the old bell tower (where I would LOVE to go) were vandalized a few years ago, but the hotel left it in place for tour guests to discover. You cannot see this without a flash, as the whole thing is black as night when you look up the staircase.

I wasn't kidding about super-steep! What is that, maybe a 70% grade?

One of the most haunted/active rooms per guest reports is Room 428 in the back corner of the highest floor. A man known as the cowboy, but believed to have been a doctor who treated the children, including one who died of tuberculosis, often appears in a corner of the room, near the window.  

Last stop: the foundation and tunnels. Which meant another ride in the old elevator.

Six person maximum occupancy is really pushing it. 

In the basement is the ongoing work to buy back pieces of the hotel's history that were lost to the auction block. The repository isn't yet open to the public, but it's growing. 

The final stop, on this tour as well as the one I took in November, is underneath the hotel, where you can see (peering through darkness) the "floating" foundation built on minerals, crumbling tunnels, and tree roots poking from the rock. When Deana and I brought up the rear of our tour group in winter, with the door shut, I felt someone step behind us, which made no sense because I knew we'd been the last of the group through the door. When I'd turned to see who was there, I realized Deana was doing the same thing. Nothing there. We sort of caught each other wide-eyed, because I knew what she was looking for and she knew what I was looking for.

On THIS tour, the guide mentioned that countless workers had encountered the same thing, and that reports of a maintenance worker for the hotel in its early days who wandered the tunnels quite frequently were well-known.

So, I guess that was him. :)

 I mean, of all the places in the hotel to get spooky, this is the spot.

So I hung back again in the same spot, but he must've been busy elsewhere, because no presence. I did hear plenty of creaking overhead from the steps of other visitors. The old floors and the floating foundation really lend itself to noise, and lots of it. 

I am glad we stayed in late November, when both the guests and the day tourists were few and far between. Even then, you could hear noises throughout the hotel all night, so I cannot imagine staying during a season when they are at capacity and running tours every twenty minutes. Plus, the hotel has no air conditioning. It was warm enough with the windows open in November, no thanks on August!

After the tour, we visited the whiskey bar. 

The 1909 restored bar that debuted in 2012, along with over 600 varieties of whiskey. 

This time, although it wasn't on the menu, I asked about the absinthe fountain. It was a lot of fun!
I felt like I needed a chemist's apron.

The ice water in the fountain is typically placed at the center of the table and all four people have their glasses arranged, with the absinthe spoon perched across, and a sugar cube under the drip. The slower, the better. It dilutes the absinthe and sweetens it. As an added flare, they'd dipped the sugar cube in the absinthe and set it on fire before starting the drip, although I wasn't fast enough to catch its blue glow before the water put it out. 

A mixture of herbs, including wormwood, anise, and fennel, give this a decidedly licorice and bitter flavor.  If you're into sweet drinks, this is not the one for you. It is savory, and, if not diluted enough, can taste like herbs on fire.

Banned from the United States and most of Europe for the better part of a century, it was legalized July 17, 2007 and has experience a revival. It's thought the unusual mixture of properties, the stimulants in the herbs and the depressant properties of the alcohol create the feeling of clarity and inspiration that were so prized by the French artists in the late 19th century.

On the way out, we spotted this little guy, who at first appeared to be a hummingbird but, on closer inspection, wasn't. Meet the hummingbird hawk-moth:

Ren was driving us back when Marci and I decided we had to stop in at the Colorado Cherry Company. We'd seen the truck on the way up, and now? It was pie time.

Lovely view for eating a slice of homemade, Colorado-grown cherry pie

Any day that includes the mountains, historical tours, and pie with coffee is an A++ day.

Previous Stanley Hotel photos:

November 2013

December 2013

My First Time Reading the Shining, the week before my first visit.


  1. When I bought the tour tickets, they offered a $5 credit for a parking receipt.

    Nice write-up!