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During the height of Colorado's silver boom, Hotel Jerome was born of the vision of Jerome B. Wheeler in 1889 to emulate the great European hotels such as London's fabled Claridge's. Built in the heart of downtown Aspen, Colorado, Hotel Jerome was designed to be a paragon of hospitality for its day.
1882 Jerome B. Wheeler and his wife Harriet moved from New York to Manitou Springs, Colorado. He was enamored by the sight of Aspen Mountain and invested more than $6,000,000 in silver mines and other local ventures.
1888 Aspen had become a mini-metropolis in the Rockies and it was deemed fitting that the city should have a truly magnificent opera house and a grand hotel. Wheeler, having built an imposing second home in Aspen, cheerfully agreed to finance both projects.
1889 The hotel was conceived by Messers. Bixby and Phillips, Kansas innkeepers who proposed an establishment to rival The Savoy in London which was about to open as Europe’s most luxurious and modern hotel. Jerome B. Wheeler donated a prime parcel of land known as Jacob's Corner at the juncture of Mill and Main Streets and loaned Bixby and Phillips $60,000 for the construction. Wheeler later took over the entire project, which was completed at a total cost of $150,000 -- the equivalent of approximately $1,600,000 today.
The exterior of the three-story hotel was constructed from rich red bricks and sandstone from nearby valley kilns and quarries. The interior was richly appointed in the decorating trends of the era, such as elaborate wall coverings and handmade Colorado tile. The Jerome boasted 92 guest rooms, 15 bathrooms, indoor plumbing, hot and cold running water, steam heat and an elevator. The building was also one of the first west of the Mississippi River to be fully lit by electricity.
The Hotel Jerome's grand opening was held on Thanksgiving Eve with electric lights glowing in every room. The grand opening ball and banquet were attended by socialites from New York, beef barons from Chicago and even European aristocracy. Rooms could be had for $3 to $4 per night.
1890 The Hotel Jerome became the heart of Aspen's booming silver camp. With the invention of the Pullman sleeping car, train travel was the new "rage" and the Hotel Jerome became a mecca for touring grande dames, Eastern bigwigs, stage and opera stars and Congressional speakers.
1892 The Hotel Jerome was sold to Archie C. Fisk of Denver for $125,000. At the time, this was deemed the largest real estate sale to date in Aspen.
1893-1910 With the demonetization of silver and the subsequent "silver crash," Aspen's once prospering community was met with hard times. Hundreds of mines closed down and thousands of people became paupers overnight. Following the silver panic, Fisk failed to pay taxes on the property and Pitkin County became the owner of the hotel, which for the next several years struggled to stay open.
1910 Mansor Elisha, a local businessman, selling cigars and stationery, made an offer to the county to pay the utilities and operate the bar and billiard room if the county would make a few improvements on the building.
1911 Elisha first leased and then bought the Jerome for the amount of the back taxes.
1918 Jerome B. Wheeler died at his home in Manitou.
1918-41 These were known as the “Quiet Years” in Aspen, when the town experienced no growth and had no external sources of income. Many of Aspen's eminent couples lived at the hotel, as it was less expensive than maintaining their large Victorian homes. Room rates dropped to $10 a month (including meals) and 50-cent Sunday fried chicken dinners kept locals coming in on a regular basis.
1946 Following World War II, Walter Paepcke, president of the Container Corporation of America, discovered Aspen while looking for the ideal setting in which to pursue his dream of an intellectual and physical utopia where overworked business leaders could revitalize body and soul. As part of his plan, Paepcke leased the Jerome for the next 25 years, and although it had never ceased to be the hub of communal life, it now witnessed a new kind of boom.
Renovations began in March 1946 and were completed that June. Herbert Bayer, a member of Germany's renowned Bauhaus School of Design and Paepcke's artistic mentor, added baths and installed furniture bought at the auction of Chicago's Palmer House. The bar was moved to the southwest corner, where the barbershop had been located, while the former game room was converted into a restaurant. The bar floor tiles came from a remodeling of the Brown Palace in Denver. Rooms with a private bath and meals were $9 to $16.50 per night.
1948 The Hotel Jerome was, as it had always been, the center of much of the town’s social life. Though completely refurbished and modernized, the hotel still retained its red plush Victorian atmosphere with the period décor in all the fully restored rooms.
1950s The hotel became a popular watering hole for writers, avant-garde artists and screen stars, including Gary Cooper, Lana Turner, Hedy LaMarr and John "Duke" Wayne. With the emergence of the Aspen Institute, it was not unusual to find intellectuals, artists and notable industrialists gathered around the swimming pool listening to lectures by Mortimer Adler.
In the ensuing years, the hotel was the site of the founding of the Aspen Institute, the Aspen Music Festival and School, the International Design Conference and the Aspen Ski Company.
1968 The Jerome was bought by John Gilmore of Michigan for the amount of back taxes following the death of Walter Paepcke in 1966. Gilmore tried and failed to interest investors in restoring the hotel to its original luxurious splendor. However, he did pave the way for future restoration through years of lobbying at zoning board and city council hearings.
1984 The Jerome was sold to a group of major investors. Recognizing the historic hotel as an exceptional example of mine camp architecture, they resolved to restore the Jerome to its former grandeur.
1985 On June 1, the first phase of the renovation began. This included retrofitting the building to save the facade while reinforcing the framework with hidden steel underpinnings. Workmen peeled off layers of white paint to reveal the building’ exquisite terra cotta brick and sandstone masonry. Many small basement rooms were removed and the foundation was further excavated to add three feet. Wiring, plumbing and heating were brought up-to-date as interior walls were rebuilt, reinforced and replastered.
1986 Equal attention to detail was paid to the interior, all of which was lovingly restored in Eastlake-gothic period. Popular in the 1880’s, Eastlake-gothic, or mine-camp Victorian as it was later called, is lively and colorful -- teeming with floral and geometric patterns, stripes, and tendrils, with etchings and Oriental flourishes.
Under the direction of celebrated interior designer, Zoe Murphy Compton, the Victorian mine-camp flavor of the hotel was painstakingly restored. More than 150 antique light fixtures of brass, cast iron, cut silver and etched cranberry glass were restored. Original cast iron door hinges, ornate examples of Eastlake-gothic craftsmanship, were polished and put back to use. Bronze, ceramic and cut glass doorknobs were restored to their original luster, as were the copper and brass fire extinguishers, door latches and striker plates.
In addition to the restored original furnishings, the interior of the hotel was graced by the contents of the Herschel Bartlett Mansion, built in St. Louis, Missouri in 1891. When Missourians could not find a benefactor to maintain the fine old Victorian, its fireplaces, paneled transforms, cherry wood doors and other antiquities found a new home at the Jerome. Many of the wallpapers were custom-made to recreate the finest Victorian Eastlake-gothic patterns found in museums. The famed Jerome Bar was the single hotel area that had been maintained in its original style for more than 100 years.
1995 The restored Hotel Jerome is a multi-million dollar museum piece whose smallest detail is an exquisite reflection of the whole. Upon entering the hotel, the broad sweep of the main lobby carries the eye to the great fireplace -- full relief-carved in oak, with a silver-dust mirror mantel. Its mate sits back-to-back in the Century Room dining area (formerly known as the Silver Queen) beyond.
From the lobby's earth tones to the rich, jewel-toned guest rooms and suites, cheerful colors are abundant throughout the hotel. Broad arched hallways are carpeted in brilliant florals on black background. All 92 spacious guestrooms offer special touches, including king beds with down comforters and feather pillows and oversized baths.
The legendary J-Bar underwent a month-long face-lift to bring the bar back to its original luster. Using historical photographs of the 111 year-old bar and hotel, former local antique store owners John and Ricki McHugh, in concert with designer Peter Kunz, designed the J-Bar renovations and oversaw the project. The great J-Bar itself, which is the original maple bar that has been part of the hotel for the last 111 years, was gently restored to preserve its integrity and pay respect to the master craftsmen who originally hand carved it.
2000 The legendary J-Bar undergoes a month-long face-lift to bring the bar back to its original luster. Using historical photographs of the 111 year-old bar and hotel, former local antique store owners John and Ricki McHugh and designer Peter Kunz design the J-Bar renovations and oversee the project. The great J-Bar itself, which is the original maple bar that has been part of the hotel for the last 111 years, is gently restored to preserve its integrity and pay respect to the master craftsmen who originally hand carved it.
2002 Hotel Jerome embarked upon an ambitious $6 million renovation to refurbish all guest accommodations, common areas including the Main Lobby and the J-bar. High-speed Internet access is installed in all guest rooms and throughout the hotel.
2007 The Hotel was purchased by Lodging Capital Partners and Elysian Hotels and chose RockResorts, a wholly owned subsidiary of Vail Resorts, as the management company.
Hotel Jerome, Aspen's crown jewel since 1889, is more then a place to stay, it is a place to experience. Surrounded by the magnificence of the Rocky Mountains in the heart of Aspen, Colo., Hotel Jerome offers an elegant yet relaxed ambiance, impeccable service, unsurpassed accommodations and exquisite dining. Each of the 94 richly appointed guestrooms and spacious suites provide a haven of comfort and sophistication. The hotel embodies the philosophy of Aspen - a balance of body, mind and spirit - and the celebrated J-bar and the Library are favorites of locals and guests alike. It is often said, "If you haven't been to the Jerome, you haven't been to Aspen." Hotel Jerome is a distinguished member of Leading Hotels of the World.