Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs With more than 12,000 people in town this weekend, downtown Steamboat Springs felt busier than a big weekend in ski season. And it was a good kind of busy, with energized people from the wine stroll pouring into restaurants and art galleries.
It isn’t until you pause to reflect, that you realize how remarkable it is that our little town comfortably can host enough “house guests” to virtually double the population overnight.
Some would argue that Steamboat’s hospitality industry began with its first European settlers, James and Margaret Crawford, who were known for welcoming strangers into their homes — first in their original log cabin near Soda Creek and later in their big stone house overlooking the stream from a hillside.
I was strolling Friday night between impressive art openings at the Depot Art Center and the old newspaper building which houses the Artists' Gallery of Steamboat, when I paused to gaze at Soda Creek and admire the impressive stonework, which has opened up the narrow channel that has confined the creek for decades. I was reminded that Steamboat’s first truly grand tourist lodging, the Cabin Hotel, had stood for several decades just a few feet away, roughly where Bud Werner Memorial Library stands today.
Steamboat’s first “modern” hotel, the Sheridan, was built in 1889 and stood a few blocks up Lincoln Avenue from Soda Creek, where it served as an obvious stop for the horse drawn stagecoach. Author and the late Steamboat Pilot editor Dee Richards wrote in her book, "Steamboat Round the Bend," that a new hotel, the Onyx, joined the Sheridan in 1901. It offered 30 rooms at the corner of Oak and Seventh streets.
However, it was the arrival of the railroad in January 1909 that inspired town leaders to undertake construction of a grand new hotel.
Local business interests raised more than $45,000 to ensure work could commence. Construction on the Cabin Hotel began in early July, and by mid-September, it was open. The four-story hotel, within easy walking distance of the railroad depot, welcomed guest for 30 years.
None of the early hotels remain standing today; all of them were consumed by fire. Richards wrote that the last to go was the Cabin Hotel on Jan. 24, 1939.
Richards captured the impact the earliest hotels in Steamboat had on the community with one well-turned sentence written in 1976:
“The sight of the glistening white Sheridan Hotel after a dusty, hot and bumpy trip from Wolcott in the wooden Concord stage must have given the traveler a sense of delight unimaginable to our sophisticated tourists of today.”
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com