COBWEB CORNERS: The hotel on Pike’s Peak
By Mel McFarland
Over the years I have been asked about the hotel on the top of Pike's Peak. I finally found the story. The Army had men living on the summit starting in 1873. They were up there a year at a time. After the Army left, the railroad had a crew that lived up there through the summer. When the road was improved and a second summit house was built, that put a crew at the top all summer too.
The summit can be a challenge even when you are up there for only an hour. Requests about spending the night started with the early trains, but the two available rooms were barely enough for the crew. In 1900, J.G. Hiestand, who was a photographer from Manitou, raised the money to build additional space. He ran a shop at the Manitou station as well as at the summit, where he sold souvenirs and his photographs. Additions included a tower where tourists could spend the night. The railroad offered sunrise and sunset viewing at the summit, and being able to stay over night simplified the railroad's transportation problem.
Like the weather station, the additions were built of two-foot thick stone, with small windows and heavy doors. The tower addition, started in 1900, had not only five tourist rooms, but a very high tower. Stairs put the viewer 100 feet above the top of the mountain. Toilets were still a short walk away, outside. A bed, table, chairs, lamp and curtains were much the same as in any hotel room.
Each room also came with a nice water cooler - water being the cure for the dry air at that altitude. Guests were, even 100 years ago, cautioned to drink plenty of water. In the night, many a guest awoke choking and water was the answer. This, along with occasional nausea, was the main inconvenience to the guests. If you could make it through the first night, you did better each night, but most only stayed for one.
Over the years more rooms were added along the west side of the building. The railroad advertised the hotel space, with pictures of the rooms.
Eventually, the hotel closed and the rooms were used instead by the crew that worked at the summit.
When the present summit house replaced the tower and the other structures in 1958, it included dormitory space. This is now used for storage, and the crews go up and down the mountain every day.