SAGUACHE — New Saguache Hotel owners Cathy Kent and Steve Stewart are slowly progressing in reinventing the old Saguache Hotel, abandoned for over two decades. They are the second owners in recent history to tackle the project, taking over from owner/investor Tony Hawthorne who performed some restoration in 2013-14.
Kent and Stewart have cleaned out the lobby of the hotel to display their many and varied antiques, a collection they keep contributing to on a daily basis. Local fairs and other events in the town bring visitors to the shop to browse and just enjoy the atmosphere of the historic structure.
This past weekend, Stewart said that regrettably, a line of old elm trees had to be removed recently to prevent their roots from further weakening the foundation. Kent wrinkled her nose at the mounds of raccoon and cat droppings the pair removed from the hotel.
All the old carpet was torn from the building and Stewart says they have made countless trips to the dump. Kent and Stewart also have gutted the hotel annex, which Kent says used to be a retail spa of some kind.
The two owners plan to remodel one room in the hotel and hope to reopen it as a bar, since Saguache has no full-time bar in the town. They disagreed on whether the room once had been a bar in the past, but no matter; in the future, it will be a bar in keeping with the general historic charm of the hotel.
Stewart describes how customers in the past were invited to select their steaks from an in-house meat counter and watch them cook on the grill while they waited. He said he would love to see a steak house set up shop in the hotel, once known for its mouth-watering meat selections.
“We’re working with limited funds but we are hanging in there,” Kent said, slightly more enthusiastic about the financial end of things than her partner. Stewart remarked that the people who visit the hotel “are very interested in and are excited about it.”
He said the old hotel has somehow become “the face of the [Saguache] Chamber of Commerce” and said he is grateful to the Chamber “for promoting the town through the hotel.” He described the hotel’s location and ambience as a good place to relay information and just sit around and shoot the breeze.
Stewart is known to take tourists for impromptu tours of the town which he says is “loaded with history.” He points to the remains of the old structures in the town, including the creamery, the stables and the old town of Milton.
It is Kent and Stewart’s goal, they said, to do their best to return the hotel to its former prominence in Saguache town history.
History of the Saguache Hotel
(Taken in part from Cecil Hall’s “Walking Tour of Saguache.”)
“The Saguache Hotel… was built by local investors to put Saguache on the map…in 1910. It received a 10-room addition on the north side about 1920. This building, constructed on the site of an earlier hotel by investors, including Horace Means, W.T. Ashley, Dr. O.P. Shippey, and George Curtis, is significant as the most important hostelry in the town.
The hotel served as a stopping place for tourists and a gathering place for the local community. The building is also significant as a type of architecture and includes a brick composition, hipped roof with widely overhanging eaves, shingled dormers, a wrap-around porch with square columns, and segmental arch windows.
“In 1935, Florence Means took over the operation of the Saguache Hotel, which was then in disrepair. Mrs. Means felt that the hotel was a vital component of the town. She reopened the restaurant and fixed up the rooms, turning it into a financial success with total hospitality and great warmth.” When the Means family moved to Pueblo in 1938, the building was sold to Zoe Hazard in exchange for $5,000 and the titles to three buildings in town.
As Florence Means relates in her book, But What, My Dear, Do you Know About Hotels?, at one point local school teachers boarded at the hotel as did the legendary sheriff and WWI and WWII veteran, Slim Paul. Paul eventually married one of the teachers who boarded at the hotel.
The hotel’s history is sketchy after the Means departed, picking up again in the 1980s when it was operated by Californians Tom and Marilyn Ross. Saguache Museum volunteer Sarah Simmeth remembers working at the hotel then, but says it passed to new owners sometime after she left in the mid-1980s, when another California couple operated it for awhile. Saguache Crescent publisher Dean Coombs says it may have been a couple he remembers only as “Lance and Loretta.”
The hotel closed again sometime in 1992, Means book relates.