Resort at Mount Princeton lived storied lives

This Buena Vista Heritage photo of Mt. Princeton Hot Springs is from the 1920s. 

The swimming pool in the foreground is still there, but has been rebuilt.  Some buildings including the light colored part of the bath house are gone.

The taller bath house building is still being used.  This pool was deep enough that you can see the diving platform. 

The big, three-story hotel was torn down in 1950-51 and the wood taken to Abilene Texas where it was used to build 14 houses. 

The road went beside the pool. The Denver South Park Railroad was on the southern bank across from the pool.

The first hotel built at the site was built in 1864 by D.H. Heywood. He was the government surveyor for the area and received 820 acres around the hot springs as payment.

It was known as Heywood Hot Springs.  He sold the property to Mary Murphy Mining investors in 1879. Headed by Charles W. Price they started the construction of the 4-story hotel in the photo. 

It took five years to build at a cost of $75,000 and was called the Antero Hotel. It was only three stories, the fourth was added in 1915 by J.C. Gafford. Gafford also built the two towers. 

The hotel was in an L shape and had a large coal range in the kitchen wing.  It reportedly, had hardwood floors, black walnut, oak and cherry.  There were fireplaces for heat in most of the 100 rooms and some had stained glass windows. 

The grounds around the hotel had tennis courts and a nine-hole golf course.  The rock wall around the grounds was built by a German immigrant Charlie Thiele and Frank Strah from Centerville.

The building housing the hot springs was built by Thiele after a spa in Heidelberg, Germany.  It cost $25,000 to build in 1915.  This building had 15 rooms, dressing rooms, baths and a dining room. 

The building was built right over the hot, wet, shifting sands of the hot springs.  In May, 1922 a new pool was built 120 feet long and 12 feet in the deep end.

The springs produced 175,000 gallons of 130-degree water every 24 hours. This is where the lobby for the pool, and dressing rooms are now.

When the railroad closed down and pulled out in 1926, the hotel suffered from lack of paying guests. Gafford sold tracts of land and gave land to people like Charlie Thiele as payment for work done.

Gafford  had a buyer for the hotel, Mr. Baker of Baker’s hotel chain in Dallas, Texas.  His young son was bitten by a rabid dog and barely recovered, which stopped the hotel purchase.  It was also the start of the Depression and economy was bad.

 The hotel was kept open by Olive Cole and her three husbands through the 1930s. The first was an actor, Norton; second  was Benedict, an athlete and businessman and Earl Cole the last. 

Guests coming to the hotel from Buena Vista were brought out in a fleet of Cadillacs. The hotel was picturesque,  but the plumbing was dismal and the drafts when the wind blew found their way through many openings.  

Cole started a power plant but invariably the electricity went out when needed. The hotel was closed during the winter months as it could not be heated enough.  

The Coles raised their own chickens and rabbits for meals and she was a good cook. They had mining promoters who brought prospects to show off mining property. (Which had probably been salted with ore samples.) 

They were very busy with guests at the hot springs in the rooms above the lobby. For $2.50,  guests could spend the weekend and enjoy the baths, a room and meals.

   In 1944, the hotel was sold to George Roche and his son. The hotel and pool were used for a private school, Mt. Princeton Commonweal, for about five years until 1949. 

Then financial troubles closed it and in 1950, the building was sold to John Crowe of Abilene, Texas, who tore it down and took the 1 million board feet of lumber to Abilene where he built homes. 

The bath house and pools were run by the Roche family until they sold to Dennis Osborne in 1960. He is the one who built the present hotel in 1965. 

The upper pool with the slide is built on the site of the nine hole golf course. This golf course also extended to the other side of CR 321.

For more information on the heritage behind the history of Buena Vista, visit BuenaVistaHeritage.org

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