When it opened in 1887, the Beaumont Hotel in Ouray was one of the finest hotels in the Rocky Mountains. After several successful decades, its fortunes declined along with Ouray’s mining economy, and it eventually closed in the 1960s. In 2005 the hotel was reopened after an extensive rehabilitation, and it is now regarded as one of the top boutique hotels in the West.
“Flagship of the San Juans”
The Beaumont Hotel was the brainchild of five Ouray residents—D. C. Hartwell, William Weston, John M. Jardine, Hubbard Reed, and Thomas Gibson—who formed the Ouray Real Estate and Building Association to give the town a first-class hotel that would impress visiting mine investors from the East Coast. The group hired Otto Bulow as the project’s architect and by March 1886 had plans ready for a brick and stone Gothic structure. Construction began in July at the corner of Third Street (Ouray’s main street) and Fifth Avenue.
The three-story hotel, which cost $85,000, was the first of several large brick buildings erected in Ouray in the late 1880s, giving the town a new sense of stability and permanence. Inside, the hotel was one of the first in town to have electricity. It featured forty-three guest suites on the second and third floors, as well as a ballroom and dining room. The hotel featured hardwood floors and furniture from Marshall Field’s in Chicago. The first-floor retail spaces were leased by Ouray’s major banks and the local Western Union office.
The Beaumont hosted a grand-opening ball in late July 1887. Guests traveled from Silverton, Durango, Telluride, and Montrose, and the Telluride orchestra provided the music. The hotel became known as the “Flagship of the San Juans,” hosting East Coast investors as well as salesmen, politicians, and middle-class tourists for three or four dollars per night. Guests are said to have included Theodore Roosevelt, the actress Sarah Bernhardt, and a young Herbert Hoover.
The hotel’s only hiccup in its early years came in 1893, in the wake of the crash in silver prices and economic panic. The hotel’s original owners could no longer make payments on a loan from Charles H. Nix, a financier and hotelier from Chicago who was also leasing the hotel. Nix foreclosed and took over the property. Ouray’s economy quickly recovered as gold mining surged, and the hotel’s fortunes improved. Wealthy residents began to use the hotel for large-scale entertaining. In 1896, for example, Camp Bird Mine owner Thomas Walsh threw a lavish ball at the Beaumont.
The Beaumont gradually declined over the first half of the twentieth century, as Ouray’s mines played out and its economy deflated. Some of the hotel’s original furniture was stored and then lost when the warehouse went up in flames.
Hotel business in Ouray picked up again as tourism increased after World War II. The Beaumont’s interior was refurbished and, in keeping with the times, the brick exterior was painted white and hung with neon signs. A restaurant and bar opened in the first-floor spaces.
Soon, however, the hotel was struggling to compete against cheaper motels in Ouray. It passed through several hands and closed in the 1960s—some say in 1964, others sometime after 1968, indicating that it probably closed and reopened at least once or twice before finally closing.
Dan King bought the Beaumont Hotel in the early 2000s and was determined to restore it to its former grandeur. He poured $6 million into a rehabilitation, which in 2003 earned the hotel the Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation as well as the National Preservation Award. In 2004 the hotel received the Preserve America Presidential Award.
In 2010 King sold the hotel to Chad and Jennifer Leaver, who have maintained King’s high standards for preservation and service. Since 2011 the Beaumont has regularly appeared on “best hotel” lists in Condé Nast Traveler and other travel magazines and websites. Once again regarded as one of the top boutique hotels in the region, the Beaumont has reclaimed its old nickname—the “Flagship of the San Juans.”