Aspen, Colorado is known for its luxurious ski resorts but one of its historic hotels is facing foreclosure. In the 1880s Jerome B. Wheeler, co-owner of Macy's Department Store, fell in love with beauty and silver boom of Aspen. He invested heavily in several mining deals but decided to bring a sense of civility by building a grand hotel. In 1889, Hotel Jerome opened its doors revolutionizing the hotel business.
His hotel was a three-story terra cotta brick and sandstone structure boasting 92 guest rooms, 15 bathrooms, indoor plumbing, hot and cold running water, steam heat, electricity throughout the building and the first elevator west of the Mississippi. The décor featured handmade Colorado tiles, elaborate wall coverings and Eastlake furniture. Rooms would cost you $3 or $4 per night, unheard of outside of grand European hotels. The hotels J Bar was the first watering hole in Aspen.
Unfortunately, with the "silver crash" of 1893, Hotel Jerome fell on hard times. The J Bar was converted in to an ice cream parlor during prohibition, but they weren't all that innocent. If you ordered an Aspen Crud, you received a vanilla milkshake containing four shots of Kentucky bourbon (a drink still served today). The hotel limped along until the 1940s when Aspen was reinvented in to a ski resort. With a makeover and prohibition a thing of the past, Hotel Jerome drew in celebrity guests such as Lana Turner, John Wayne and Gary Cooper.
By the 1970s, the hotel fell in to disrepair, becoming a hostel for ski bums. Over a decade later, Hotel Jerome received the much love it needed. A group of investors purchased the establishment and restored it to its 1800s glory. White exterior paint stripped away revealing its terra cotta brick, custom-made wallpaper reflecting the 1800s, dark wood and antique furniture throughout, and a large clock mounted in the lobby concealing the ashes of the hotel's original chef. Since then, ownership has transferred several more times.
Anyone who stays in the luxurious hotel must try the Aspen Crud but also stay in Room 310. Story goes a 10 year old boy and his parents stayed at Hotel Jerome. The boy supposedly drowned in the hotel's original pool. Room 310 is in the hotel's new addition and sits above the old swimming pool. In 1988, a woman occupying that room placed a phone call to the front desk concerning a lost, soaking wet boy. When a member of the Jerome staff showed up to help the boy, he vanished leaving behind wet footprints. No children were registered in the hotel at that time.
There are also tales of a silver prospector named Henry O’Callister who came to Aspen in 1889. After discovering a 1,500lb silver nugget, he checked in to the Hotel Jerome, falling in love with Clarissa Wellington, the daughter of a prominent Boston family. Her father forbid her to see him and sent her back to Boston. Legend states O'Callister squandered his fortune away and died a lonely man. Guests and employees have reported hearing sobbing late at night and witnessed the apparition of a man wandering the halls.
A third story is that of Katie Kerrigan. In 1892, she became a member of the Jerome staff as a chambermaid at the age of 16. Her beauty made her the object of affection for many of the wealthy guests and the subject of teasing among the staff. One wintry night, a fellow maid told Katie her beloved kitten had fallen through the ice in a nearby pond. She rushed out in the cold to rescue the feline from a frozen fate. Unfortunately, she fell through the ice and caught pneumonia. She died a week later. Employees say on occasion a maid will enter a room to turn down the covers only to find the job already done.
Elysian Worldwide LLC and Lodging Capital Partners LLC are in talks with their lenders in effort to keep the hotel from being auctioned off on January 27th. Will they succeed or will Hotel Jerome fall in to the same category as so many haunted locations before it?