In choosing what building I wanted to write about for my Colorado Architecture Month blog I decided to go beyond the city limits and find a building that still represents the state of Colorado without being in the heart of downtown Denver. Once I stripped away the constraints of the city it became perfectly clear to me what building I had to write about. Located in a little mountain town at the foot of the Rocky Mountains this building boldly sits on a hill, allowing it to watch over the quiet town below. With its rich historic background, panoramic views of the Rockies, and supposed ghostly activity, this building has become so iconic that people come from near and far just to visit it. In fact, over time this building has become such a pop-culture icon that most can identify it by hearing two simple words, “Heeeeeere’s Johnny!”
The Stanley Hotel, located in Estes Park, Colorado, was built by businessman Freelan Oscar Stanley. Like most people who visit Estes Park, Stanley and his wife fell in love with the sleepy mountain town during their summer visit in 1903. After building a private residence, Stanley purchased 160 acres a half-mile away with plans to build an elaborate hotel compound that would cater to the rich and famous. Construction of the Main Building began in 1907 and took two years to complete. The hotel was built out of steel support beams and large timbers that were salvaged after the Bear Lake burn in 1900. The original 138-room neoclassical hotel first opened on July 4, 1909 equipped with running water, electricity, and telephones.
Elegantly designed from the inside out, the Stanley Hotel attracts a large number of guests each year. However, not all the guests are staying at the hotel for a historic experience. Many, many believe that the Stanley Hotel is haunted, especially the infamous room 217 made popular by writer Stephen King. Both guests and staff have reported hearing and/or seeing ghostly activity around the complex. The grand ballroom and music room, both located in the main hotel building just off the lobby, are believed to be two of the most “active” rooms in the hotel.
As a result, The Stanley Hotel became the inspiration for the fictional “Overlook Hotel” in King’s novel The Shining after King and his wife stayed in room 217 in 1974. Though the original Shining movie was not filmed at the historic hotel, the 1997 television miniseries of The Shining was filmed at the Stanley. Fun fact, the original woodwork in the main lobby was once painted white. When producers for The Shining came in they decided that they wanted the wood to look “natural” so they hired a local artist to paint over the original white woodwork. The painting work was performed so carefully, it would be hard to tell that the “wood” is actually fake. That said, movie fans who aren’t into scary movies will also recognize the Stanley as the “Hotel Danbury” from the 1994 comedy Dumb and Dumber.
Historic and beautiful, this building is one of Colorado’s hidden icons. If you’ve never been to the Stanley Hotel, go. If you’ve only be there once or twice, go again. If you’re like me and have been there over two dozen times, keep going back. I promise you won’t be disappointed with breathtaking mountain views, the beautifully crafted historic details, and a few goosebumps when walking past room 217.