Colorado was granted statehood in 1876, making it the Centennial State. At that time, adventurers looking to strike it rich in the silver rush, pioneers heading west for a better life, and those city folks coming from the East hoping to take the “cure” from the mineral waters flowing down from Pikes Peak were all looking for a place to rest their tired bones. So let’s take a tour of four of the Front Range’s most unique and frequently visited inns and B&Bs, starting with the renowned Cliff House Inn located at the foot of Pikes Peak in Manitou Springs, traveling east to Spurs ’n’ Lace and the Holden House in Old Colorado City, and finally to the St. Mary’s Inn near Colorado College.
The Cliff House at Pikes Peak
Back in the late 19th century, you weren’t anyone important unless you had visited Manitou Springs and stayed at the elegant Cliff House at Pikes Peak. The Cliff House was originally built in the winter of 1873, and has compiled a fascinating history over its almost 150 years. Older than the state itself, this Victorian beauty catered to such notables as Clark Gable, P.T. Barnum, Thomas Edison, Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Dickens, and Buffalo Bill Cody.
Over the course of several renovations during the last century and a half, the original structure became the 20-room boarding house known as “The Inn” and was a stagecoach stop on the route from Colorado Springs to Leadville, one of the most famous stagecoach runs of the American West. Even the earliest guests—mostly trappers and hunters on their way to or from Colorado Springs—were drawn to the inviting parlors and rambling porches. The fresh and flowing mountain water was cool and good-tasting and had a high concentration of minerals that benefit the body; the American Indians had been drinking it straight from the springs for hundreds of years, believing it to have healing powers.
“As Colorado’s oldest operating hotel, The Cliff House at Pikes Peak remains one of the area’s most elegant and stately buildings,” Martin Lays, director of finance, says proudly. “The hotel exudes an unmatched air of historic splendor and intrigue. The hotel displays dozens of vintage memorabilia from over 145 years, spanning visits by Teddy Roosevelt through photos from the devastating fire of 1982.”
Eastern business tycoon Edward E. Nichols headed West in the late 1800s in search of the curative waters. After a trip to Manitou Springs, Nichols felt he had been cured of tuberculosis by the mineral waters and moved permanently to Manitou Springs, a town where he served as mayor for eight terms. In 1886, he bought The Inn, renaming it The Cliff House and converting it to a sophisticated resort hotel that capitalized on the sparkling waters and mineral springs in the region.
Having been restored to its present magnificence, “The Cliff House offers some of the region’s finest accommodations along with four-diamond dining, featuring a spectacular wine list encompassing over 500 wines from around the world,” says Lays.
The Cliff House is decorated in the style of the late 1800s, complemented by modern services and amenities. The property has 54 beautifully appointed guest rooms and luxury suites. Each room is individual in character and may include special features such as a gas fireplace, two-person spa tub, steam shower, and towel warmer. Two of the favorite celebrity suites are one named for Buffalo Bill, which has a luxurious teepee-shaped room with a sky-high turret featuring native-style paintings and historic black and white images, and the Clark Gable suite with signature animal print wallpaper, an elegant marble jacuzzi tub, and framed posters of some of Gable’s most beloved films.
Spurs ’n’ Lace Inn
Walking up to the wrought-iron fence that surrounds Spurs ’n ’ Lace Inn in Old Colorado City, you immediately get a relaxing and romantic vibe. Located in a restored 1885 Queen Anne Victorian home and within view of Pikes Peak, it presents the cozy atmosphere of a bygone era. This exquisite home was reconstructed to offer cordial living at its best. With antique light fixtures, stained glass windows, crystal chandeliers, and turned-spindle staircases, it is a showcase of yesterday’s charm. One of the unique aspects of the B&B is the history and stories that historical preservationist and innkeeper Arlen Lanman shares with her guests.
There are just five rooms, including the Durango room with its Old West ambiance. It is decorated with two western paintings by local artist Helen Pelton and has a unique 1908 fold-down writing desk. The frequently booked Victorian rose room boasts a vintage four-poster bed and matching dresser, complemented by turn-of-the-century photos and figurines. Also in the room are two rose-colored swivel rocking chairs.
There are no televisions in the rooms, but breakfast is included. Located three blocks from the heart of Old Colorado City, so guests can easily walk to nearby restaurants, boutiques, and historical sites. “Whatever brings you to the Pikes Peak region, including weddings, anniversaries, or just a visit with family, Spurs ’n’ Lace is the perfect home base,” Lanman says.
Built in 1902 by Isabel Holden, the wife of a wealthy Colorado Springs businessman, Holden House features guest suites that are named for the Colorado towns in which the Holdens owned interests: Aspen, Cripple Creek, Goldfield, Silverton, and Independence as well as the Pikes Peak suite named for America’s Mountain. Classical, elegant, and historic charm is the hallmark of this beautifully restored Colonial Revival Victorian and its side-by-side carriage house and Rose Victorian homes. Innkeepers Sallie and Welling Clark continued to share their love of old houses with their guests.
The Clarks began their antique collecting long ago when Sallie’s grandmother, who lived in Pueblo, began contributing to the inn’s furnishings. Each room is graced with family portraits, heirloom treasures, and lovely antiques.
The St. Mary’s Inn
The St. Mary’s Inn, located near Colorado College, was constructed around 1896 as a residence for Mary Giddings, a member of the family who founded and operated Giddings and Kirkwood Dry Goods, a major provisioner of the time. Several decades later, the residence was purchased by businessman Edwin Stark, who turned the large Victorian property into apartments in the 1940s in an effort to provide housing for local soldiers.
In 2000, the property was purchased by Zeno and Conchita Nolet, who had a vision of converting the majestic apartment building into a bed and breakfast. The conversion took about eight years, and The St. Mary’s Inn opened to guests in 2008. Suites include the Cherrywood with a bright red decor, the cheery blue-and-white Cyprus, and the turreted Ironwood. “The property is a historic, turn-of-the-century, well-appointed mansion, which serves as an award-winning bed and breakfast,” says current owner and innkeeper Pam Piper. “The St. Mary’s is situated in a central location within easy walking distance to downtown, Colorado College, and many restaurants and other amenities.”