Originally established in 1879 as the Lakeside Resort, the Inter-Laken Hotel was developed by James V. Dexter into a high-class, late nineteenth-century resort near Twin Lakes. Popular for about two decades, the hotel declined and eventually closed in the early twentieth century as a series of water storage and diversion projects transformed Twin Lakes from a pair of glacial lakes into a large reservoir. The hotel site, including the cabin Dexter built for himself in 1895, was restored in the early 2000s and now features interpretive signs for visitors.
In 1879 John A. Staley and Charles Thomas built a hotel called the Lakeside Resort on the southern shore of Twin Lakes. Although Leadville, about fifteen miles north, was in the midst of a mining boom, the hotel struggled financially. In 1883 it was acquired by James Viola Dexter, a wealthy mine owner in Leadville, who bought the hotel and eighty acres of land for $3,250.
Dexter renamed the resort the Inter-Laken Hotel and quickly developed it into one of the finest resorts in the Rocky Mountains. He expanded the main hotel building, a two-story board-and-batten structure with two chimneys, and added Kentucky bluegrass lawns, fountains, a hotel annex, a dance pavilion, a stable, and a hexagonal privy.
Designed primarily as a summer resort, the Inter-Laken Hotel offered sailboats, rowboats, canoes, and a fifty-foot steamboat called the Idlewild. Some winter amusements, such as ice skating and sleigh rides, also took place at the resort. With rates as high as four dollars a day, it was the most expensive hotel in the area, attracting wealthy visitors from Leadville, Denver, and Colorado Springs as well as a few international guests.
In 1895 Dexter built himself a two-story cabin near the resort. A square building with an open veranda on all sides, the Dexter Cabin featured a bell-cast mansard roof, symmetrical gabled dormer windows, and an enclosed cupola flanked by two chimneys. Inside, the cabin had walnut finishes and elaborate birdseye maple furniture.
Since the 1890s, the main threat to the Inter-Laken Hotel has been the transformation of Twin Lakes from natural glacial lakes into a large reservoir. In 1896 the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Company dammed Lake Creek to allow Twin Lakes to store an additional 54,000 acre-feet of water for use by farmers along the Arkansas River. The Inter-Laken remained on dry land, but the stagnant, shallow water of the reservoir contributed to its declining popularity in the early twentieth century, and the hotel was eventually abandoned.
In 1972 the US Bureau of Reclamation took control of the Inter-Laken Hotel site and nearby areas as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which was designed to provide additional water for the Arkansas River Basin. The project turned Twin Lakes into a reservoir for water diverted from the Western Slope and awaiting release into the Arkansas River, threatening to inundate some parts of the Inter-Laken site. At this time the hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1981 the Bureau of Reclamation completed a new dam at Twin Lakes. Two years later several Inter-Laken buildings, including the hotel and Dexter Cabin, were moved to save them from the rising level of the reservoir. Several other hotel features—such as the dance pavilion, fountains, and lawns—are now underwater.
By 2000 the Inter-Laken Hotel was suffering deterioration by neglect, with its buildings boarded up and inaccessible. In 2001 Colorado Preservation listed the site as one of the state’s Most Endangered Places. Starting in 2004, the hotel complex was restored in a four-year effort modeled on Habitat for Humanity projects. Most construction work was performed by volunteers, with architectural supervision by Harrison Goodall of Conservation Services. Funding and other assistance came from the US Forest Service, Colorado Preservation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Colorado Mountain Club, and the State Historical Fund. The Forest Service also erected interpretive signs.
Located in the San Isabel National Forest, the Inter-Laken Hotel site is now managed by the Forest Service. Visitors can access the site by boat or on foot via the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide Trail, which pass near the hotel.