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Built in 1891, Ouray’s Western Hotel is one of the oldest hotels in Colorado and one of the few remaining frontier-style wood-frame boardinghouses in the West. The fact that it’s still standing 132 years later is likely thanks, in part, to Ouray’s forward-thinking city planners. The fire department they established near the turn of the 20th century was a rare sight in the state’s flammable boomtowns and may have saved the Western from the fiery fate suffered by many of its contemporaries. More than a century later, new owner Kyle Zeppelin is rescuing it from another threat: time. “It has great bones,” says Zeppelin, co-president of Zeppelin Development, the firm responsible for revitalizing buildings throughout Denver’s RiNo district. “When you add it up, [the renovation is] certainly comparable to what a new build costs,” he says. “The difference is, you have all that character and history built into it.”
Zeppelin and his team salvaged key historical elements such as the lobby’s original stained glass windows and the first floor’s tin ceiling while making needed updates in preparation for an early 2023 reopening, including insulating the walls and installing a fire suppression system. The saloon retains its handcarved wooden bar, but the completely revamped restaurant features a seasonal menu full of locally sourced ingredients that are primarily prepared over a wood-fired hearth. Upstairs, 40 cramped boarding units have become 16 light-filled suites, each with its own gas fireplace, kitchenette, and luxurious bathroom (from $350). Or, for a communal experience, guests—and the public—can take a dip in the new in-house spa’s hot and cold saline plunge pools.
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The updates, including a name change to the Western Hotel and Spa, may belie the building’s working-class roots, but the Old West spirit remains. “There was an opportunity in Ouray to provide something that was a little more elevated,” Zeppelin says, but “the historic character is totally fundamental to how guests will experience the hotel.”