The Elkhorn Lodge in Estes Park

Photo of the original Elkhorn Lodge by Ken Jessen.

In the early 1870s, William James moved from New York to Colorado with his wife, Ella, and their three sons — Homer, Charles and Howard. (Baby Ella came along later.) William settled into cattle ranching and in 1874 built a small hunting lodge in order to take advantage of the hunters and sightseers who traveled up his way. Buildings were added over time including Estes Park’s first school, a ranch house, a coach house that over time was both a stage stop and casino, several cabins, a horse barn, dormitories, and a small chapel. The property is also the site of one of Colorado’s first golf courses.

As the oldest, continuously operating hotel in the state of Colorado, it was added to both the National and State Registers of Historic Places in 1978. But without a local preservation ordinance in Estes Park, the property is not protected against the possibility of demolition. In 2010 it was added to the Colorado Endangered Places list as development pressures, coupled with the fact that the property was on the market, brought home the reality that a developer could potentially raze the historic buildings.

In 2014, the Elkhorn Lodge received a State Historical Fund grant of $10,000 for the emergency stabilization of barns on the property. But the lodge remains on the market and its fate hangs in the balance.

Photo of the chapel at Elkhorn Lodge by Historic Larimer County member Ken Jessen.

Photo of the first schoolhouse in Estes Park by Historic Larimer County member Ken Jessen.

This article first appeared in the Historic Larimer County newsletter that was sent out on July 16, 2018.

Historic Estes Park Tour

On October 23, 2017, Historic Larimer County members enjoyed a personalized tour of historic Estes Park including a visit to the historic Park Theater and the Birch Ruins. The tour was led by Derek Fortini, the director of the Estes Park Museum and one of Historic Larimer County’s board members.

Before beginning the walking tour, Derek Fortini have a brief overview of the history of Estes Park.

In Estes Park, history facts are printed on the sidewalk with chalk.

Plaques throughout downtown tell the story of Estes Park.

The tower on the Park Theater is hollow.

One great thing about a tour is that you find things out that you might not have picked up on without someone telling you. This mark on the sidewalk looks unimpressive, but it’s indicative of the fact that many old Estes Park buildings used to have a second story porch that extended out over the sidewalk.

The Birch ruins were built for a Denver newspaper editor and burned down within months after the stone cabin was built.

There are beautiful views from the ruins.