Ride ’em Cowboy: Strater Hotel


If you love Victorian design you’ll be in heaven at the Strater Hotel in Durango, Colorado.  I can’t stand the clutter and complexity of Victorian interiors,  but thoroughly enjoyed my stay.

I can appreciate design done well.   And the Strater truly measures up.

It is decorated the way it was when in opened with a flourish in 1880 in Durango’s heyday.   This was a time period when interiors were done in a grand manner.  Lots of wood carving. Painted Ceilings.  Stained glass.   Elaborate chandeliers.  Dark flocked wallpapers. Velvet and damask draperies and upholstery. Ornately carved furniture.  Fringes and tassels.

You can find it all in this hotel in the center of the Old West.

Every room is filled with the stuff.   In fact, it is said to have one of the world’s largest collection of Victorian furniture.

As I said, if you like the stuff, you’ll love it here.

Now, the hotel is not perfect and if you are expecting modern amenities—do lower your expectations.

Our room was billed as a Queen Deluxe.  Well, the “queen” was smaller than the double bed we slept in during our years in a Married Housing apartment in Ann Arbor.   Cozy.   And the bathroom was barely a closet, with hardly room to turn around.  I suspect the original hotel didn’t have in room bathrooms.

There were no in room safety deposit boxes, bathrobes, coffee makers or the like. But we were comfortable and charmed with the history.

This history includes stories about under ground tunnels connecting the basement to hidden speakeasies during prohibition.   And there’s a lot of talk about the hotel being haunted.

The desk clerk told me that there was a couple who were to be married at the hotel but the husband to be, chickened out and ran away at the last minute.  The bride took her own life and is thought to roam the hotel in anguish, turning water on in bathrooms and leaving notes in the condensation of the shower doors.

Whether you believe it or not, it certainly adds to the atmosphere.

So does the Diamond Belle Saloon, located on the corner of the hotel and open to the street.              The sound of marvelous pianists, banging out honky-tonk tunes spills out on to the main street in town enticing one to belly up to the bar.

One night we were delighted and amused with a reenactment of a “shoot out.”

A bunch of guys in chaps, wide low belts, those cool coats with the splits down the back, big hats and neck scarves swaggered into the saloon and to everyone’s delight, stimulated a fight that ended up on the street outside, with bar maid dropping the hanky to signify the start of gunfire.  The sheriff and his buddy landed on the ground. Really silly but a fun thing to have happen while we nursed our drinks and contemplated where to rustle up some grub.

Our bar tender proudly told us he’s a “bad guy” on Monday nights.   It’s probably the highlight of his week.

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One Response to Ride ’em Cowboy: Strater Hotel

  1. Peggy DePersia says:

    Your post brought back scenes from Gunsmoke,
    The Lone Ranger, Bonanza and all the rest. I was reminded of the fantasies of another world that those weekly shows in the early years of TV, the ones we woudn’t miss for anything, generated.
    These hotels, which seem to abound in the West, and sometimes provide a significant attraction for towns or cities holding on by a thread (eg. Winslow and Bisbee Arizona) are another way for us to revive our fantasies of the wild west and a bygone era. While in Jerome, Arizona recently, I listened to stories about ‘The wickedest city in the west’, one that thrived on a mining industry; a city that now thrives on stories of ghosts and bad guys. Though my imagination was fueled by the ‘edge’ to the stories, I was quite sure that, had I lived in such a town durning its heyday, it would not have been ‘pretty’.

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