Words: Ericka Koeing
Photos: Ashlee Sack
Cañon City was once the town that the elite of the west flocked to, for its high desert temperatures, dry air, natural and mineral hot springs, and its fine hotels. The weather and climate hasn't change much in the past 130 years, the hot springs were paved over long ago for the expansion of HWY 50, but some of the hotels still stand tall. One of those hotels is the Hotel St. Cloud.
Occupying the northwest corner of Main and 7th Streets, Hotel St. Cloud has watched over Cañon City’s historic Main Street since 1888, when the hotel was brought brick by brick from Silver Cliffe, CO. The four story brick building has been sitting empty and in disrepair since Spring of 2005, but now there is light shining bright in the Hotel’s future.
The Future of Yesterday Foundation, a 501(c)(3), recognized by the IRS March 2013, is determined to save this keystone historic landmark, with the help of another.
The Foundation, formed by Erin Tierney, her son James Characky JR., and his wife Maretta Characky, received the hotel through a gift from HLC Enterprises LLC, enabling it to be placed in the Foundation’s care making it possible for the Foundation to receive donations and historical grants to repair the dilapidated building. Inside its walls there is an abundance of opulence and wild west charm. The historic gold gated elevator is rumored to be oldest working Otis elevator west of the Mississippi, can still sweep you up to the top floor “or cowboy alley” as the locals call it, with ease and surprising speed. The front desk, grand staircase, and ballroom retain their historic charm and craftsmanship, even while covered in a layer or two of dust. The bar with its gorgeous original wood work, St. Cloud Bank safe, the original piano (which was destroyed by a leaking pipe), and a mural of all of Colorado 14ers, is the sort of place where a cowboy and a gentleman would have shared a whiskey or two. These are the kind of architectural treasures that could keep wild west lore alive and well in Cañon City.
Restoring a historic hotel can be quite the financial undertaking. In order to help raise the estimated $3 million needed to restore the building, The Foundation has received grants, state historic funding, and has been hosting events at another Cañon City historic building, The Robison Mansion. The latest fundraising event, a Prohibition-themed soiree, is a collaboration between the Foundation and two local women - Erica Koenig and Ashlee Sack. Avid local history enthusiasts (and staunch supporters of reviving downtown Cañon City), Koenig and Sack imagined the party as a way to share their love of local history, vintage fashion, music, fine cocktails, and restoring the Hotel St. Cloud. On December 5th, the Robison Mansion will open its doors for the party of the year. Music will play. Drinks will be poured. And the password to the downstairs 'speakeasy' will be carefully unguarded. Why December 5th? Because on December 5th 1933 Amendment 21 was ratified, making it legal for American’s to drink again. The Robison Mansion will serve as the perfect setting to raise money for another Cañon City landmark.
The Mansion was built in 1885 by Lyman Robison, and sits on the south side of the Arkansas River. It was the talk of the town then and still is now. The Mansion has been restored and updated by the Foundation board members with great attention to detail. The Mansion itself has a way of drawing you into the past, with its grand staircase, long winding hall ways, chandeliers, enormous front porch, spacious kitchen, giant windows that soak the house in sunlight, and the kind of craftsmanship not often seen.
The Prohibition Party at the Robison Mansion will feature period drinks, including The Silver Queen, a DRAM Apothecary special recipe for the party, light refreshments prepared by a local chef, modern jazz and swing spun all night long by the Mansion’s DJ, a silent auction, straight razor shaves by Brandon “The Barber” Smith, and much more. Of course, all guests are asked to dress in period attire. The party is completely staffed by volunteers who all believe in the Hotel’s return to its rightful place as the patron saint of Cañon City. Each one of them has a personal story about their time spent in the Hotel. From ghost stories to sweet sixteens, the Hotel has inspired an entire generation of Cañon City residents to step up and make a difference.
Tickets are on sale until December 1st, though there are only a few pre-sale tickets left. Pre-sale tickets are $30 for an individual or $50 for a couple. Tickets at the door will be $45. All tickets sale proceeds go directly to the Hotel St. Cloud restoration fund.
Following the Prohibition Party, McClure’s Saloon is hosting the official after party in conjunction with their 130th Birthday.
For more information on the Prohibition Party, please visit The Future of Yesterday Foundation’s Facebook page.