As a resident of Evergreen I have heard stories about the historic and infamous, Troutdale In The Pines Hotel, that used to be located just up Upper Bear Creek. Unfortunately it no longer exists but I can’t help but reminisce what it was like to visit this beautiful hotel in the 1920’s and enjoy this magnificent hotel in its heyday. Wealthy and famous guests like Mary Pickford, Gretta Garbo, Clark Gable, Ethel Merman, Groucho Marx, and Harpo to name a few were on the guest list. Below is an article written by Evergreen resident, Vanita G. Cosper that I would like to share with you in an effort to keep the Troutdale in the Pines memories alive for future generations to enjoy.
“Troutdale was more than just a job or a vacation, it was an experience.”
As rails extended beyond Denver and Colorado Springs in the 1880s and the railroads advertised Colorado as “The Switzerland of America,” tourists began pouring into the state. Hotels and resorts sprang up in outlying areas such as the Hotel de Paris, 1875 in Georgetown; The Hotel Colorado, 1893, Glenwood Springs; The Imperial, 1896, Cripple Creek; The Boulderado, 1908, Boulder; The Stanley, 1909,Estes Park. While these elegant hotels and resorts were emerging during the late 1800s and early 1900s, along quiet, lovely, out-of-the-way Upper Bear Creek canyon, Troutdale-in-the-Pines was having a less auspicious birth.
Just below the crest of Mt. Evans nestled in a glacial cirque, lies Summit Lake. Frozen much of the year, come springtime this pristine high mountain lake thaws, and nourished by melting snowfall from the surrounding peaks, spawns Bear Creek.
From the tundra, through the bristlecone pine and stands of spruce and fir, the crystalline stream begins its long journey to the sea. Quickly, it rambles down the massif, around and through the steep Precambrian stone until it flattens into a lush mountain meadow known as the Upper Bear Creek Valley. Forests of pine, spruce and aspen blanket the valley sides. Birds and animals, big and small are plentiful. Here, summer days are warm, the nights cool. It is easy to see why for many years people have found this valley an attractive and comfortable place. Prior to last century’s European intrusion, it is likely that Utes, Arapahoes and other unnamed bands of native American hunter-gathers made camp in the green valley, living off its bounty. 2
Upper Bear Creek Road extends from Evergreen Lake westward toward Mount Evans winding its way along Bear Creek, from time to time crossing over the creek. The road was built in the 1870’s to support the booming logging industry. At one time there were as many as six active saw mills in forests at the base of Mount Evans.
Early settlers found the alpine beauty of Evergreen enchanting and the narrow strip of land along the canyon of Upper BearCreek irresistible. Word of its beauty must have escaped and before long tourists from Denver, other areas of Colorado as well as from surrounding states were flocking to the area to spend summer days and nights among the evergreen trees. “From 1900 on, the State Business Directory routinely describes Evergreen as a “summer resort in Jefferson County.” 4 “On Upper Bear Creek alone, in the years from 1900 to 1941, at least six summer resorts in addition to Troutdale flourished at different times, including Bendameer, T Bar S, Singin’ River Ranch, Greystone and Brookvale.” 5
Names on signs in front of stone and log estate homes dotting the banks of Bear Creek evoke romantic images of days passed -names such as Granite Glen, Rippling Waters, Wilcox on the Rocks, Greystone Estate, Glen Eyrie, Landview in the Pines, Glendora. Sturdy stone fences with pillars holding wrought iron gates separate the road from these homes. Small, unpretentious cabins with no fences and no gates and no names fill in small lots between these once proud summer lodgings, lodgings since remodeled into year-round residences. Perhaps the most intriguing sight of all along this route is the crumbling remnant of Troutdale-in-the-Pines, a resort which closed its doors for the last time more than thirty years ago.
Secured behind fences, locked gates and “no trespassing” signs, this vestige of Colorado history is slowly, sadly, rotting away. Its red roof, for the most part, has fallen in, the guest rooms are silent and dilapidated. Tattered, water-stained curtains flutter in glass-less windows. Fallen lumber and rockwork lay piled around the old hotel’s foundation like some ragtag skirt. Debris fills the old grounds and the small lake is dead, filled with silt. What nature has not destroyed, vandals have.
The lady is a victim of neglect. But this was not always so.
On a wooded parcel of land acquired by homestead and settled by Jasper D. Babcock and his family, the seeds of a resort were planted in the early 1880s. Babcock came to Colorado from Illinois after the Civil War and lived in Golden for several years where he was in the “hotel business.” He moved his wife and four children to the 160 acres on Bear Creek, west of Evergreen, in 1881 where, according to “Testimony of Claimant” Babcock cultivated 25 acres in potatoes, oats and rye. Apparently Babcock had other ambitions than just farming because by 1887 he had built “25 or 30 log cabins used for “summer boarders,” in addition to a main lodge and an artificial lake.” The cabins were rustic, but comfortably furnished, each having its own homemade quilts. They were built around a log lodge, the Babcock home, which housed a kitchen and a parlor. Mrs. Babcock served guests home cooked meals in the lodge. To get to the Babcock resort guests took the train from Denver to Morrison and were picked up there and taken by coach the 14 miles through Bear Creek Canyon to the resort. 6
The scenery of the area was the major attraction for those who came, along with the opportunity to enjoy hiking, fishing, camping, picnicking and other outdoor activities such as canoeing in the lake, in this exquisitely beautiful and serene place. Visitors came from Colorado, and because of the railroads they came from many other states as well.
A brief entry in the Denver Republican in 1901 reported that “Troutdale is fast becoming populated and the coming week will see nearly all of the cabins occupied.” The article reported “Judge Butler caught 25 trout in 120 minutes.” The guest list included 30 guests from Denver and families from St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Kansas City, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Salt Lake City. In another article on the same day in the “Mountain Summer Resorts” Section of the same newspaper it was reported, “The fourth was a beautiful day and Bear Creek was thronged with visitors from Denver, Idaho Springs and other localities. There was never before such a large display of fireworks which extended all along the creek for a distance of 5 or 6 miles.” (For more than 100 years residents of the area enjoyed fireworks on Upper Bear Creek, on the 4th of July until 1992 when fire regulations caused cancellations of the annual celebration.)
The importance of the railroads to the development of tourism in Colorado cannot be ignored. The completion of the railroad across the country in 1869 and into Colorado in 1870 was the catalyst for the beginning of tourism in the state. A Union Pacific Railroad pamphlet published in the early 1900s in a glowing tribute designed to attract legions of summer tourists to this wonderland said of Colorado; “its snowy mountain peaks, its silvery mountain streams, and peaceful, shimmering lakes, its incomparable camping grounds with abundance of good fishing and hunting on every hand, its broad and verdant parks, lying sometimes two miles above sea level, its incomparable climate all combine to place it at the very front among the tourist lands of the country.” 7
With such glowing endorsements of Colorado it is no wonder that the owners of Troutdale felt comfortable advertising in 1903, with this ad; “In the heart of the Rockies, only 28 miles from Denver, prettiest summer resort in Colorado. Take Colorado & Southern to Morrison, stage to Troutdale. Special rates for the balance of the season.”
The Babcock years ended with the sale of the resort and surrounding 1 71 acres to Denver Mountain Parks Securities in 1916 for $100,000. 9 Plans by Denver to develop a lake and park area on land adjacent to the resort was the stimulus to the development of the property. The acreage was platted into 500 homesites, and a sales campaign was initiated in surrounding states. The developers had grandiose plans to build more cabins and a casino. An advertisement in the Rocky Mountain News, June 18, 1916 calls Troutdale the “Most attractive Resort in the Denver Mountain Park District. Fine New Casino being built, 84 x 44, with 112 ft. of Fine Porch, dining room, 1 ball room, grill room, lounging room, etc. Opening about July 4th, with special chicken and trout dinners, good music, etc.” As was to be the case many times in the future, these plans never materialized and in 1919 the resort was sold to Harry E. Sidles. 10
The glory days of Troutdale-in-the-Pines were about to begin.
Harry Sidles, a wealthy automobile dealer from Lincoln, Nebraska, was familiar with Upper Bear Creek. In 1914, Sidles built a summer home for his family across from the Troutdale Resort and aptly named it Rippling Waters. A deed dated 1916 shows Mr. Sidles purchased lots #ll to #20, Tract 1, Troutdale Estates from Denver Mountain Park Security for $3,355. 11 His interest in the area was obvious and when the opportunity arose to purchase the entire resort and real estate development, he probably couldn’t resist. He headed up a group of investors calling themselves The Troutdale Hotel and Realty Co. and in 1919 construction was begun on the luxury hotel of four stories, with 100 guest rooms, ballroom, dining room, billiard room, bar, barber shop, drugstore, and bakery. The structure was built with 6,000 wagon loads of local rock brought from within five miles of the site. 12 lt was rumored that the original structure was designed by noted architect, Addison Mizner. 13 The structure is said to have cost $600,000 and was made of native stone and timber “to disturb nature as little as possible.”14 A glittering grand opening night for the hotel was held in June of 1920. One can imagine the excitement of these first-time guests, when rounding a sharp curve on otherwise quiet, rural Upper Bear Creek Road in the early twenties. There in this idyllic setting, a massive stone structure rose out of the rocks to greet them like a great European manor.
A glittering grand opening night for the hotel was held in June of 1920. One can imagine the excitement of these first-time guests, when rounding a sharp curve on otherwise quiet, rural Upper Bear Creek Road in the early twenties. There in this idyllic setting, a massive stone structure rose out of the rocks to greet them like a great European manor.
By all reports, to Harry Sidles’ Troutdale-in-the-Pines was always more of a pet project, a labor of love, than a business venture. “According to a grandson, Fred Sidles, his grandfather loved the hotel and thought of it more as a hobby than a business interest.” 15 A nephew of Sidles was quoted in 1980 calling the hotel “sort of a rich man’s plaything” for his uncle. Sidles’ various business endeavors kept him away from the hotel much of the time, when he was in the area he enjoyed entertaining guests at Rippling Waters and could often be seen in the lobby or dining room of the hotel warmly greeting friends from Lincoln. 16
A beautiful, colored promotional brochure, not dated, but obviously prepare194d in the early years of operation gave a vivid description of the hotel, its elegant and comfortable interior, the various amenities and activities offered to guests, and the breath taking beauty of the surrounding countryside 7500 feet above sea level. Although the brochure states, “The Troutdale is one of those places that cannot be described with words or pictures. It is necessary for one to see it in order to appreciate and enjoy its beauty and setting,” twelve pages of color photographs and artists renderings do an excellent job of conveying the special appeal of the resort.
“The Troutdale is one of those places that cannot be described with words or pictures. It is necessary for one to see it in order to appreciate and enjoy its beauty and setting,”
“Troutdale-in-the-Pines … Colorado’s newest and finest modern mountain resort. Not only is it one of America’s most beautiful resorts, but its distinctive charm, individuality and environment are apparent the moment you enter the grounds. A hotel of the highest character. … Surrounded by a forest of magnificent pines and rugged mountain peaks towering above a 100 room hotel constructed of moss-covered mountain stone – 45 rustic log cabins – a gem of a lake – little island – swimming pool, and picturesque Bear Creek.”
A beautiful lounge 45 x 100 ft., with three huge fireplaces and cheery log fires, rustic light fixtures and floors covered with more than forty of the choicest Navajo rugs, tapestry covered wicker, and leather upholstered chairs and davenports proves always a source of great comfort and enjoyment to our guests.
Leading directly from the lounge and extending out over the lake is the ballroom (40 ft. x 40 ft.), enclosed in glass and screened, insuring a cool, pleasant place to dance at all times, which will accommodate 500 people. To dance on its scientifically built and specially constructed floor is a real pleasure, enhanced by strains of music. Only the best of music is furnished at Troutdale.
The dining room is 65×75 feet and will accommodate over 260 guests, with three huge fire places and a dining porch which overlooks the beautiful lake, swimming pool and bubbling, singing Bear Creek. On the tables you will find a large variety of beautiful mountain wild flowers. The bedrooms are described as, accommodations to suit the taste of everyone. All the rooms have hot and cold running water (although only a few had private baths.) All rooms are light and airy and have outdoor exposure. Elevator service adds to the many conveniences. The guest rooms at Troutdale have been given special thought and attention and the furnishings and appointments selected and installed are of that character and nature most conducive to the comfort and satisfaction of our guests.
Every conceivable form of mountain recreation is provided at Troutdale-in-the-Pines an especially fine string of riding horses with courteous attendants and instructors to chaperon riding parties. A mountain golf course that is claimed to be the best and sportiest in this region of the mountains. A large swimming pool, tennis court, fishing, croquet, horseshoe, and hiking.” 17
“Sidles and his associates were continually upgrading and adding to the facilities. By 1927, another story had been added to increase the capacity to 300 guests.” 18 And the guests came. They came from Denver and from all over the country. Celebrities and business leaders and families and men without wives and women without husbands filled the hotel for two and a half months out of every year, enjoying the magic that Harry Sidles had created.
Directions for getting to the hotel were included in promotional materials. “Round trip excursion tickets may be purchased from any point to Denver, Colorado. Troutdale buses are operated from Denver by the Thomas transfer line, which leave from 1528 Wazee St.” There were several departures daily from Denver, or guests could, until many years later, take the train to Morrison and be met by one of the Troutdale limousines. Directions for automobile travelers read, “tourists may take the route out of Denver via South Broadway turning at Alameda A venue by way of paved road to Morrison through Bear Creek Canyon, arriving at Troutdale main entrance, or on West Colfax over paved road to Golden, Colorado, over Lookout Mountain, arriving at Troutdale east entrance.” 19
“RATES: $5.00 per day and up ‘American Plan’.”
From its opening the hotel was run on the American Plan, which meant meals were included with the daily rate, as well as access to all of the hotels activities, except for a small charge for horseback riding and a small fee for golfing. A brochure from the 1920s states: “RATES: $5.00 per day and up ‘American Plan’.” An information sheet filled out for Rock Island Lines in 1939 show daily rates $8.50 to $12.00 for a single room up to $22.50 for two connecting rooms. 20 The Troutdale Golf Course was a short walk from the hotel and is the site of the present Evergreen Golf Course situated immediately west of Evergreen Lake. The Troutdale Hotel and Realty Company deeded this property to Denver in 1926 with the stipulation that a golf course always be maintained on the tract of land. The golf course’s club house was a comfortable, rustic log structure, built in 1925 which now houses the “Keys on the Green” Restaurant. 21
All but two of the officers and directors of the Troutdale Hotel and Realty Company during the first decade were from Nebraska, so the Nebraska connection was strong. Sidles’ Nebraska roots were evident in his practice of hiring young Nebraska college students to staff the hotel in the summers, in addition to the professional help hired from Denver and other places. This was a practice which perpetuated itself until the hotel closed, though in later years college students came from a few other states as well. Sidles’ philosophy was to hire students to work during the summer to help raise money for their tuition, but he wanted them to have a vacation as well. The staff had access to all hotel facilities and activities and on their days off they could be found participating in activities just like a guest. It is said that at the end of the summer, Mrs. Sidles would match any money saved by the students so it could also be applied to their upcoming tuition. 22
A great deal of time and energy was spent on the staff-hiring process. The manager (Ray H. Thompson in the early 20’s, and Victor Toft from 1927 until the property was sold in 194 2) spent much of his off season months corresponding with prospective and returning staff members. Many copies of letters exist discussing particular job assignments and expectation,, living accommodation for staff, expected date of arrival to the hotel and other matters. Also after the closing every year the manager wrote letters of praise to those that had done a particularly good job. In a 1926 letter to employee James B. Smith, manager Ray Thompson writes of his appreciation of Smith’s services, “You have conducted your department in a splendid manner and I have heard nothing but praise from our guests during the entire season. Knowing you as I do and also knowing just how hard you tried at all times, and many times under difficult conditions, to please every one, it is with a great deal of pleasure that I tell you that you have done your part in making Troutdale a success. I hope that you can arrange to be with us again next season.” 23 This is representative of the consideration given to staff members, and of Troutdales’ active interest in maintaining the very highest quality staff to cater to the guests and to help maintain the genteel yet comfortable atmosphere.
The opening night of the Hotel was a great social occasion each year. Correspondence indicates that many prominent people from Denver as well as from many surrounding states made reservations to be present for the “Opening Party”. Some Denverites came up for the dinner and dancing and stayed over for breakfast. A letter from Victor Toft to Mr. Leonard de Lue of Denver dated June 8, 1935 in response to Mr. de Lue’s inquiry about the event discusses available accommodations and rates.
“We expect to have a favorable comment on the opening this year since we have made some additions to our facilities that will enable us to handle the crowd in excellent shape. We are just completing a new Cocktail Lounge that we believe will be the finest of its kind in this part of the country, and we have also engaged one of the big names in the musical world- namely, Orrin Tucker and his 12 piece orchestra, with Lucille Doran, featured soloist. We are limiting the reservations this year to 500, and I need not tell you, as you may judge from past experience, that there will be a great many more people than that who will wish to attend. It would perhaps be desirable, therefore, to make a reservation as soon as you can with Mr. Newell at the city office, or by letter to me. I can assure you that if you do decide to enjoy the festivities of the Opening with us, our best efforts will be forthcoming in giving you a most delightful time.” 24
Railroad tours planned trips to arrive at Troutdale for the Opening Party each year. Letters between tour director of Burlington Lines and Mr.Toft in 1939 make arrangements for fourteen couples for rooms and dinner reservations. 25
Harry Sidles died in 1934. At that time ownership of the Hotel was taken over by his son, Fred, with primary management responsibilities handled by Victor Toft, who had held this position since 1927.
In addition to managing the Hotel, the settlement of the Sidles’ estate took much of Toft’s time and energy. It was apparent soon after Sidles’ death that the Hotel would have to be sold. In a letter written in 1938 by Toft, he says; “Because of our efforts to continue the closing of Mr. Sidles’ estates it has been impossible to secure funds for any other purpose. It has required over $300,000 to pay Estate taxes, bequests, and debts of the deceased, and additional funds are still needed in order to complete this task. This is the only reason the heirs are interested in selling the Troutdale property.” 28
In a letter to another prospective buyer, Toft rationalized the small profits made by the Hotel by pointing out that Sidles had many interests other than the Hotel, that his staff had no training in hotel management, and only little attention was given to increase business except during the summer month operating season. Profits from Hotel operations varied dramatically from year to year, depending on what major maintenance projects were undertaken by the management.
“It has been for some time apparent,” wrote Toft in a letter to Major C. Robert Hoyme in 1938,” that we should dispose of the Troutdale Hotel Company property to a Corporation or group of individuals who could give it the management that this lovely resort needs.” 29
Efforts continued for several years to find a buyer for the Hotel. During these years the Hotel opened each June as it had since the summer of 1920, with elegant opening parties, big bands, exquisite food, and no change in the genteel atmosphere of previous years. Then came World War II and the resort was forced to close for the summers of 1943 and 1944 due to gasoline shortages and general diversion of interest in the country.
Finally, in the fall of 1944 a group of business men from Texas, headed by Kirby Beckett, bought the resort. The Rocky Mountain News reported that the new owners planned to “reopen it this season”. 30 The Hotel did not reopen. Apparently the Texas group did not find the same joy (and probably smaller profits than expected) in owning and running the Troutdale Hotel, for they sold it to a Chicago group before 1946.
The new manager-director of the resort, H.B. Raskin, announced that the Chicago group planned an immediate expenditure of$50,000 on the Hotel and cabins to “make it the resort spot of the nation.” Raskin informed everyone that the Hotel would be winterized, and the Hotel would provide transportation for guests to all ski areas reasonably close to the resort.31 The plans to winterize the resort never happened, but the Hotel did nave a few more years of splendor under the new leadership of Raskin.
The tradition of using college students as summer labor was still in use during the 1940’s and 1950’s. One of the students who worked at the Resort for four summers in the early 1950’s was James T. King. As a student at Hastings College in Hastings, Nebraska he was recommended to the “housemother” at Troutdale by a girlfriend. King had been coming to Evergreen each summer with his family since the early 1940’s. He was familiar with Troutdale and was in awe of becoming one of its staff. King relates today; “Imagine a wide-eyed 18 year old from Nebraska coming and spending the summer at Troutdale. Swimming, fishing in Bear Creek, playing tennis, going to the Central City Opera, associating with celebrity guests, dancing to music of well known bands. On the third day of the job there was an elegant party in the dining room. Everything exuded glamour.” 33
King was a kitchen assistant. In fact he was a dishwasher. One of his memories was of the chef, Bruno Mondini. Chef Mondini was very particular about his kitchen. He was always dressed in crisp white chef attire. Mondini, an Italian, had a lovely tenor voice. He arrived at the kitchen at 6:00 am every morning and for a half an hour before the rest of the staff arrived he could be heard singing Puccini and Verdi at the top of his lungs. When the kitchen help came on duty at 6:30 am he took immediate charge and quit singing.
Early in the season one year, Mondini found that his salad assistant was not going to be coming for the summer. He notified an agency in Denver and a qualified assistant was sent out. The new assistant’s first day in the kitchen was spent preparing Roquefort dressing and Mondini watched in horror as the assistant added cottage cheese with the Roquefort cheese. Mondini stopped him immediately and scolded him. The new assistant said that was the way he had done it at the Broadmoor. The chef said that at the Troutdale everything was done properly and that was why Troutdale was of higher quality than the Broad moor! The new assistant was given another chance and he never again put cottage cheese in the Roquefort dressing.
The staff at Troutdale became close friends during the summer months in the but stories of celebrity guests abound. Although it cannot be verified, there are reports that Greta Garbo, Clark Cable, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Mary Pickford, Ethel Merman, Liberace, Jack Benny and many other celebrities spent quiet vacations at Troutdale. Apparently, Kate Smith came one year but couldn’t adjust to the altitude and couldn’t stay. It can be verified that some of the best of the “big bands:” of the day came to Troutdale to play for nightly dancing in the Rainbow Ballroom and to enjoy a summer vacation as well. Tommy Dorsey, Dusty Rhodes, Ted Weems, Lawrence Welk, Doodles Weaver, Woody Herman and Paul Whiteman were just a few that came and entertained the guests. Paul Whiteman came every year and an autographed picture of him hung in the lobby which referred to Troutdale as “a little gem in the Rockies.” 34
Groucho Marx was a frequent visitor to Troutdale.
Groucho Marx was a frequent visitor to Troutdale. Marx was very quiet, unlike the other celebrity guests. There was a rumor that one of his many marriages took place at the resort. The kitchen staff saved bread for him because he liked to feed the ducks on the lake in front of the Hotel. Groucho and his brother Harpo had come for several years, but Harpo’s health was poor and during the 1950’s Harpo was unable to come to Troutdale because of the altitude. The Lincoln Star quoted an Evergreen summer resident as saying, “Harpo and Groucho would hang out at Troutdale. Harpo drove a Cadillac convertible with a Doberman Pinscher in the back seat. That dog didn’t let anyone near the car.”
One evening in 1952, weary from campaigning, Adlai Stevenson (U.S. Vice President 1893-1897) arrived at Troutdale after the kitchen closed. Dishwasher James King and some of the staff were still finishing their duties when Stevenson came into the kitchen and asked if there was any food available. The staff prepared a sandwich for Stevenson and he sat and visited with the young students for over two hours, getting their views on many issues of the day. King remembers Stevenson as a kind and sincere man.
The Hotel continued to be well known and widely advertised throughout the era when it was owned by the Chicago group, and promotional materials still referred to Troutdale as “Colorado’s most Beautiful Mountain Resort.” But the upkeep of the Resort was very expensive and an attempt in 1958 to “go Western” was not the success hoped for. Vacation habits of Americans were changing and the Hotel began losing clientele to other more contemporary destination resorts. Earl Pomeroy’s assessment of the tourist in mid-century might help explain the demise of Troutdale-in-the-Pines. “Now the typical tourist party has become a family from Spokane or San Francisco out for a long weekend rather than a family from New York out for a winter or summer. The big market is the local market which knows the country already (or feels it knows it) and is out to enjoy a swim, a picnic or a hike-perhaps a merry-go-round and a ferriswheel, too-rather than the great adventure.” 35 Also Troutdale and Evergreen were in a remote location, not as easily accessible as the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park or the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. Troutdale’s days were numbered. In 1961 the Chicago based corporation that had owned and operated the Hotel for seventeen years closed the doors on Troutdale for the final time. Never again would strains of big band music coming from the Rainbow Ballroom echo in the canyon of Upper Bear Creek. The music was silenced and the lights were turned out on a glittering era of tourism in Jefferson County as well as Colorado. An auction was held sometime after the closing and all of the beautiful furnishings and rugs and china and silver were practically given away. The autographed picture of Paul Whiteman reportedly sold for $2.00. There is the story that the guest registers were given away and pages torn out and celebrity guest signatures slit out of the pages with razor blades. 36
This was a tragic ending to a glorious life, but more heartbreak awaited Troutdale.
This was a tragic ending to a glorious life, but more heartbreak awaited Troutdale. After 1961 the story of Troutdale was carried in the newspapers. From Cervi’s Journal of July 18, 1962; “TROUTDALE RESORT SALE UNDERWAY. William S. (Doc) McClymonds of Denver is negotiating for purchase of Troutdale in the Pines, famous old resort hotel above Evergreen, and plans to open it for business within the next week or two.”
From The Rocky Mountain News of March 30, 1963; “SKY PILOTS BUY TROUTDALE RESORT. Troutdale-in-the-Pines, one of the area’s best known resort hotels, has been purchased by Sky Pilots, the Aurora (Colorado) based organization seeking to train youth in Christianity. Purchase price was $255,000 less a $100,000 tax exempt donation from the previous owners … The Rev. Elmer B. Sachs, president of Sky Pilots is a former policeman and founded the organization 19 years ago in California. Rev. Mr. Sachs said the resort facilities will be used to build youth spiritually as well as physically.”
From the Denver Post of January 8, 1964; “EVERGREEN RESORT SITE REDEEMED. Holders of a $123,000 note on Troutdale-in-the-Pines, near Evergreen, foreclosed on the resort property Tuesday at a public trustee’s sale at the Jefferson County Courthouse. The note was redeemed for $120,000 by Nathan}. and Ben Raskin, former owners. Sky Pilots of America, which had signed the note last March has six months to make payments on the note to keep title from passing to the Raskins.” From the Denver Post of July 1, 1965; “TROUTDALE SITE SOLD FOR CHRISTIAN CENTER. Purchase of the Troutdale-in-the-Pines resort in Upper Bear Creek Canyon above Evergreen and 30 adjoining acres for a Christian liberal arts college and missionary training center has been announced. The resort, long a Denver area landmark, was sold for approximately $130,000 by Nathan J. and Ben Raskin of Chicago. The purchases were made by Bear Creek Properties Inc. headed by George I. Norman, Jr., owner of KICM Radio and other business interests in the Denver area. 100 per cent of stock was transferred to Fossum Foundations. People’s Radio Association of Denver will join with the Fossum Foundation in developing the college and missionary training center.”
From the Denver Post of September 30, 1965; “SKY PILOTS FILE $1 MILLION SUIT IN TROUTDALE RESORT PURCHASE. A civil suit seeking $1 million against a man indicted by a Jefferson Co. grand jury Wednesday on blackmail charges and 15 other defendants was on file in District Court here. Principal defendants in the action are George Norman, former Golden radio station owner. Spokesman for Sky Pilots said title to the property was conveyed to Norman and that since then it has been transferred so many times that the plaintiffs don’t know who actually holds title to the property.”
From the Denver Post of August 14, 1966; “TRIAL OPENS MONDAY ON SWINDLING CHARGE. George I. Norman and four business associates are scheduled for trial Monday. The defendants are accused of swindling $65,000 from the Fossum Foundation in connection with a real estate deal involving Troutdale-in-the-Pines.”
From the Denver Post of September 1, 1966; “WITNESS CASTS DOUBT ON OWNERSHIP OF ‘GIFT’ PROPERTY. A prosecution expert witness raised doubts Wednesday as to whether George Norman owned Troutdale-in-the-Pines when he offered the resort as a “gift” to the Fossum family of N.D .. ”
Sound financing, definition of a market niche, professional management: elements needed to ensure the Resort’s continued operation, failed to come together in the 1920s. Meanwhile, any cost of any restoration and renovation continued to escalate, as the once fine hotel slipped further into disrepair. There was a faint glimmer of hope in 1967 when Jefferson County Commissioners granted a liquor and dance license to Chateau Troutdale, Inc., a “10-man corporation which plans to reopen the Troutdale Hotel west of Evergreen. Receipt of the license by the Troutdale group is contingent upon their remodeling the building to bring it up to County health and building standards.” 37 Chateau Troutdale never became a reality, nor did the planned resurrection by a group of Iowa business men who also planned to open Troutdale and are quoted by the Canyon Courier (June 27, 1974) as saying “the 160 room hotel will be remodeled into a 60 room resort and convention center.”
In 1979 plans to convert the property into luxury apartments generated much excitement in the Evergreen area. The Canyon Courier reported that “The new Troutdale will attempt to retain as much of the old as possible. Forty five units will be divided into two buildings: 21 in the old hotel and 24 in a new building. Construction has already begun on the first 10 units in the southeast wing of the old hotel. They are for sale now, but will not be finished or ready for occupants until the fall of 1980. Starting price: $240,000”. A nationwide sales campaign was planned for the Troutdale Club and Condominiums project which was headed by Bill Womacks. “As a building condemned by the County, Troutdale has housed only trespassing vandals, arsonists and tramps for the past decade. But next year it will open its door to the wealthy once again; as a reincarnation of the old Troutdale.” 38
Little more than one year later all work had stopped on reconstruction of the Troutdale condominiums due to “hard financial times”. 39
Bill Womacks and other investors didn’t give up even with the failure of the condominium project. In 1982 Colorado Business reported that a completed feasibility study indicated that a market existed for a small, exclusive hotel to be used as an executive retreat. Womacks was quoted, “We’re looking primarily for corporations to have their annual meetings, small seminars and conferences, but because of our size, we’ll probably be of more service to upper executive levels, not entire companies. Because of the limited size, and proposed lavish accommodations, Troutdale is intended to attract a more regal and intimate gathering of guests.” 40
Estimated cost for the construction of this executive retreat was set at $4 million.
The “lavish accommodations intended to attract a more regal and intimate gathering of guests” never got off the drawing board. It is not clear what obstacle prevented the fruition of this project. In 1986 the Canyon Courier reported yet another condominium development proposed by Womacks and investors was to be reviewed by the Jefferson County Planning Commission. By this time W omacks congenial relationship with the local newspaper had obviously deteriorated and he declined to discuss any further details of plans he had for the old hotel. He was quoted as saying, “I have nothing to say yet. I’m just trying to get the platting done. It’s not the Canyon Courier’s business or the public’s business.” 41
By 1987 Troutdale was the focus of yet another planned transformation. “Mediplex Group plans to transform the derelict Troutdale-in-the-Pines hotel into a 150 bed treatment facility for those addicted to drugs and alcohol. Plans call for the hotel to be revamped in the style of its glory days in the 1920’s and 30’s. The proposal was embraced by Evergreen citizens, with nary a hint of negativity surfacing throughout the County approval process.” But as early as February of 1988 headlines again brought disappointment to those interested in seeing the building restored when the Canyon Courier reported that “Health problems delay Troutdale project 6 months” and in August of the same year the company that had planned the treatment backed out completely on the project due to “corporate decisions”. “Troutdale plan shelved.” 43
There has been little reported activity surrounding Troutdale in the years since 1988. The Jefferson County Assessor’s Office records show the current owner to be Troutdale Redevelopment Project. Bill Womacks is still part of the ownership group.
Currently, the biggest night of the year at Troutdale is Halloween when local youths from as far away as Fort Collins, Greeley and Colorado Springs sneak onto the property because they believe the hotel is haunted. The Canyon Courier reported in 1987 “forty-three youths were caught trespassing at the vacant Troutdale over the Halloween weekend.” 44
Aside from the shell of the old hotel, two other buildings still exist on the Troutdale grounds, the gatekeeper’s cottage sitting beside the entryway to the grounds now looks uninhabited. Beside this deserted house stands the building that originally was the stables, later the chauffeur’s house and in the 1950’s the girls’ dorm. Renovated, today the caretaker lives there behind locked gates and no trespassing signs, helping to keep out vandals and teens intent on visiting what they believe to be a haunted hotel.
Although tourism is currently one of the largest industries in the State, Evergreen is no longer a tourist mecca except for the occasional Grayline buses parked on Main Street during summer waiting for day-trippers to emerge from one of the several shops in old downtown.” The reasons for Evergreen’s decline as a summer resort are not hard to find: the introduction of air-conditioning, which made the plains bearable, the development of superb automobile roads and other services made it possible to live in Evergreen year-around and commute to Denver, and the increasing affordability of high-speed air travel, which brought a variety of exotic vacation spots within the reach of many families who, a generation earlier, might have had a cabin in Evergreen.” 45
There is no doubt that these reasons are valid and certainly they contributed to the demise of Troutdale. But also during the past 30 years bad luck and bad timing seemed to be a constant visitor to Troutdale as well.
Evergreen in 1993 is a thriving bedroom community to Denver. Upper Bear Creek Road, still a chic address, is the site of year-round residences new and old. But dominating the drive toward Mt. Evans, now as it has for 70 years is the once proud lady that was Troutdale-in-the-Pines. Even today the old ruin has charisma, enchanting tourists and locals alike. But, whatever Troutdale-in-thePines’ ultimate fate, she stands as a monument to Colorado’s and Evergreen’s glamorous past.
Mary Helen Crain, late local historian, wrote these words in 1967 and they are still true today, “whatever happens to it, Troutdale-in-the-Pines will linger in the minds and hearts of many people, in Evergreen and from coast to coast. Nevertheless, it is hard to say, ‘Good-bye’ to something that has played such a long and distinguished part in Evergreen’s history. 46
Contact an Evergreen Colorado Real Estate Agent
Shad Philips – Certified Mountain Area Specialist 303-218-6926
To learn more about any Evergreen Colorado homes for sale or to receive email notifications when homes are listed for sale in Evergreen Colorado, call 303-218-6926 or contact an Evergreen Colorado REALTOR®.