Hotel Boulderado is located at 2115 Thirteenth Street in Boulder. Since opening its doors in 1909, it has stood as a luxury hotel and community-gathering place as well as a statement of civic pride. The hotel was built by the Boulder Hotel Company, a joint enterprise sponsored by the Boulder community, and purchased by the Hutson Hotel Company in 1940. It continues to function as a hotel today, and includes several bars and restaurants.
Planning and Construction
The city of Boulder was founded in 1859 to serve nearby mining camps during the Colorado Gold Rush. When surface gold deposits began to run dry, many residents either moved elsewhere or turned to agriculture to make a living. Railways began to reach the city in 1873, and Boulderites founded the University of Colorado in 1876. Boulder became known as a sophisticated and cultured city, but citizens realized that they needed to invest in civic infrastructure to ensure that Boulder would continue to prosper.
In 1905 the growing community of Boulder envisioned a grand hotel that would express civic pride and secure future social and economic development. To raise money for the project, the Boulder Commercial Association sold stocks publicly at $100 per share instead of relying on a single wealthy investor. The community responded enthusiastically, seeing the future hotel as an investment to entice railway expansion, draw visitors and business, and encourage population growth in the city. By April 1906, the community had raised $75,000. The hotel they envisioned would not be the first in the area, but it would be the grandest.
The subscribers who had invested in the project incorporated the Boulder Hotel Company for $100,000 and elected prominent businessman James Moorhead as company president. Major decisions about the new hotel were made democratically by the local community, as stockholders voted on the hotel's site, name, and design.
Construction of the Hotel Boulderado started in October 1906. William Redding, Floyd Redding, and James Cowie of local architectural firm Redding & Son modeled the building after San Francisco's Palace Hotel. They designed a rectangular hotel that was five stories tall, with a red sandstone foundation, thick brick walls (built four bricks deep for stability and insulation), and a wood and asphalt roof. The exterior mixed Italian Renaissance elements such as impressive towers and tall, narrow windows with Mission/Spanish Revival features such as a central courtyard, curvilinear gables, and arched fourth-floor windows. Inside, a stunning Italian stained-glass ceiling covered the interior lobby and mezzanine. Guests had the option of riding an Otis electric elevator for easy access to the top floors, or they could climb a cantilevered cherrywood staircase.
The ornate hotel took almost three years to build. In 1908, as construction neared completion, the Boulder Hotel Company leased management of the building to Wallace and Sons. The hotel finally opened for business on January 1, 1909, offering its seventy-five rooms for $1.00–$2.50 a night. The fifth floor was completed in 1910. At the time Hotel Boulderado was the largest and most luxurious hotel in Boulder.
Ownership and Operation
Hotel Boulderado quickly became known for its luxurious accommodations and beautiful construction. Business was seasonal, peaking in the summer months and declining in the winter. Many notable guests stayed in the establishment, including Enos Mills, Clarence Darrow, Billy Sunday, Hellen Keller, Robert Frost, and Louis Armstrong.
Boulder citizens and visitors alike used the hotel for more than just temporary stays. Some tourists who stayed there later moved to Boulder, contributing to the city's growth. In addition, the hotel became one of Boulder’s most prominent social centers, hosting weekly meetings for service groups such as the Lions, Rotary, and Kiwanis Clubs as well as dances and other social functions. Salesmen displayed their goods in “sample rooms” on the fifth floor, and entrepreneurs Florence Molloy and Mabel MacLeay operated their taxi service from the hotel. Four stores operated on the ground level of the hotel facing Spruce Street.
In October 1917, Wallace and Sons transferred Hotel Boulderado's lease to F. F. Thatcher, who soon became ill and transferred his lease to Hugh Mark. Meanwhile, in 1921 the Boulder Hotel Company elected principal stockholder C. G. Buckingham to the position of president. Business continued to grow throughout the 1920s, allowing the Boulder Hotel Company to retire its debt in 1925 and pay stockholders their first dividends in 1929.
The Hotel Boulderado hit a rocky patch during the Great Depression, which resulted in many empty rooms. In 1934 Hugh Mark passed away, and J. O. Baker and W. B. Pope took over hotel operations. In 1940 company president C. G. Buckingham died and his nephew C. E. Buckingham took over. Community ownership of the hotel ended later that year, when the Hutson Hotel Company bought the building and the Boulder Hotel Company was dissolved. William Hutson and his son, William Jr., were able to invest more capital into the hotel and improved the structure through a series of renovations.
Although national Prohibition had ended in 1933, the city of Boulder extended the ban on liquor sales well into the twentieth century. In 1969 the Catacombs Restaurant and Bar opened in the basement of Hotel Boulderado, becoming the first establishment to serve liquor in Boulder after Prohibition was repealed in the city.
Recent Renovations and Use
In 1980–82 a major remodeling project converted many of the Hotel Boulderado's smaller rooms into two-room suites, reducing the number of hotel rooms in the main building to forty-two. In 1985 and 1989, two annexes designed by the architectural firm Junge Reich Magee were built northwest of the hotel and connected to the original building by second-story walkways, bringing the number of rooms up to 160.
Today the Hotel Boulderado continues to operate as a luxury hotel, conference center, and community-gathering place. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 and is also a City of Boulder landmark and member of the Historic Hotels of America. In 2017 owner Frank Day began a series of renovations to restore and modernize Hotel Boulderado to remain competitive with newer hotels in the city.