Teller House was built in 1871-72 for brothers Henry and Willard Teller and was known as one of the finest hotels west of the Mississippi River. At the time, Central City, Colorado was one of the world’s largest suppliers of gold due to the local gold mines. The hotel has seen its share of famous visitors including a U.S. president.
In 1873, President Ulysses S. Grant made a trip to Central City to visit with his friend Henry and see his new hotel. To impress the president, mine owners decided to lay solid silver bricks to make a path directly to the entrance of the Teller House. The purpose of this gesture was so President Grant wouldn’t have to dirty his boots upon stepping from his carriage. At the time of his visit, Congress was debating on whether gold or silver should back the dollar. Story goes, upon seeing the silver bars, the president became angry and decided to use the boardwalk instead in order not to show favoritism.
The Teller House is most known for an oil painting. On the wooden floor of the once Teller House bar is a painting of a young woman. Who the woman is and the name of the painter are unknown. However, there are theories.
The most popular one allegedly occurred in 1934 or 1936. Legend states the Central City Opera Association commissioned artist Herndon Davis to do a series of paintings and sketches. He stayed in the Teller House while he was in town. One afternoon, he found himself in a heated argument with the project director, concerning how his work should be executed. This led to Davis being fired. Some say it was a prank. Others say Davis scratched out the painting in a drunken stupor. Whatever the reason or frame of mind he was in, Davis painted the portrait of what was believed to be his wife, Edna Juanita (Cotter) Davis on the barroom floor. He supposedly spent hours working on this masterpiece but yet never signed it. It is believed he never told anyone about it, revealing his secret in his will after his death in 1962.
The second theory is more of a tragic sentiment. A miner was at the bar, distraught over the death of his wife from consumption. He drank himself in a stupor and became sprawled on the floor. He, then, began painting a picture of her, whispering to the painting as if he was having a conversation with his wife. He worked through the night in to the early morning. After he finished, he collapsed on to the painting never to wake again.
This painting has been advertised as the painting from a once famous poem called “The Face on the Barroom Floor” by Hugh Antoine D’Arcy. It’s uncertain whether not the painting was inspiration for the 1877 poem or the poem inspired the painting. Or perhaps neither. Supposedly, the person in the poem was based on someone from New York City (not sure if he was an artist or if he ever painted a portrait on a floor). I find it interesting how details from the poem seem to match up with both stories. Perhaps both legends were spawned from the poem. Who knows.
“The Face on the Barroom Floor” painting is still at the Teller House, well preserved after all these years. Some say you can hear whispering coming from the painting or even a conversation between a man and a woman. Witnesses have also reported seeing a female spirit with blonde hair. She is believed to be the wife of a man who beat her to death in the 1890s.
Teller House was once home to a casino but is now occupied by a couple restaurants to cater to the opera patrons and other visitors.