BOULDER — Bounding up the steps to the Hotel Boulderado’s entrance on 13th Street, I pass through the front doors of the venerable red-brick building and immediately notice that something is different, more open. I try to place what it is, then realize the foyer wall to my right has been knocked out and replaced with a blonde sycamore bar top that wraps back into Spruce Farm & Fish, the hotel’s main dining space.
I resist the temptation to belly up for a Boxcar coffee and continue into the lobby, which recently received a multi-million dollar makeover that balances the hotel’s historic importance with contemporary comforts and needs. This is the delicate dance that all historic hotels must attempt, and the Boulderado appears to have figured it out.
The two-story space soars into the mezzanine, all of it capped by the signature stained-glass canopy ceiling (the glass was originally imported from Italy for the 1909 opening, destroyed in a spring snowstorm in 1959, and restored again in 2004). The lobby buzzes with people, some relaxing on couches and chatting (modern furniture was part of the lobby update), some sitting at the old front desk, which has been preserved but converted into a modern work station cloaked in dark hardwood — and the old key boxes and safe are still there. Servers swoop through with plates and drink platters and somewhere beneath us, things are just getting going in License No. 1, the basement speakeasy-style bar (which was also completely redone from the old Catacombs bar just a few years ago).
Though Boulder and its cherished Boulderado are distinct, there are other towns across the state with their own lovingly restored historic hotels. Here are a few favorites:
The Leland House and Rochester Hotels, Durango. The Rochester was first built as a 30-room boarding house in 1892 and now consists of 15 luxury rooms around a gorgeous, shaded secret garden. There are other stately old hotels in town with more of a Wild West flair—I’m looking at you, Strater and General Palmer—but at the Rochester, you’ll instead find a Western film theme, honoring the many movies that were shot in the area. (The Leland, across the street, is a 1920s building that has also been restored.) Summer rates start at the Rochester at $199/night for queen ($249 for king, $259 for double queen, family suites from $399). 726 East Second Ave., Durango, 970-385-1920, rochesterhotel.com.
The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park. This iconic 140-room hotel at the base of some dramatic cliffs in Estes Park first opened in 1909 as the personal guesthouse of F.O. Stanley, an East Coast inventor whose steam-engine automobile still sits in the lobby. The hotel has since accumulated more than a century’s worth of history, hauntings and Hollywood inspirations. Even if you’re not staying here for your Rocky Mountain National Park explorations, at least swing by for one of their many historic walking tours. 333 Wonderview Ave., Estes Park, 970-577-4000, stanleyhotel.com.
The Hotel Colorado, Glenwood Springs. Built in 1893 next to the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs, this hotel was modeled after the Villa De Medici in Florence, Italy. Today it has 130 rooms and suites, two on-site spas and two ballrooms. Past guests include President Theodore Roosevelt, President Taft, Al Capone and Molly Brown. Summer rates range from $139 to $625 a night. 526 Pines St., Glenwood Springs, 970-945-6511, hotelcolorado.com.
Hotel Boulderado, Boulder. Choose from 160 guest rooms, 42 of them in the historic wing, the rest more modern, from $279 a night. During summer, brunch goes until 3 p.m. daily. On Mondays, the hotel offers free Music on Pine Street concerts in a cozy (interior) outdoor plaza from 5 to 8 p.m. Located 2115 13th St, Boulder, 303-442-4344, boulderado.com.