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