The Stanley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel is a 140-room large hotel that is situated about 8.05km from the entrance of the Rocky Mountain National Park, in the Statutory Town of Estes Park in Larimer County in the US State of Colorado. The Stanley Hotel was built in a colonial revival architectural style by the American architect and inventor – Freelan Oscar Stanley. The hotel was inaugurated on July 4, 1909, and mainly served as a resort for the American upper class who resided on the East Coast of the United States as well as those who suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis. Considered one of the United States’ most haunted hotels, the Stanley Hotel served as an inspiration for “The Shining” - the 1977 international bestseller horror novel by the American author Stephen Edwin King.

About the Stanley Hotel

View of the historic Stanley Hotel in the Rocky Mountains of the Estes Park, Colorado.
View of the historic Stanley Hotel in the Rocky Mountains of the Estes Park, Colorado. Editorial credit: Paul Brady Photography / Shutterstock.com

There are 11 contributing structures in the Stanley Hotel National Register Historic District which includes the main hotel along with a carriage house, the concert hall, the gatehouse, the manager’s cottage, and The Lodge. All these buildings have been designed and built by Freelan Oscar Stanley in association with architects Thielman Roger Weiger and Henry Rogers, and contractor Frank Kirchoff. At the time of its opening, the Stanley Hotel was considered one of the country’s first hotels that were fully electrified. To make this possible, the Fall River Hydro plant was constructed by Stanley that also for the first time supplied electricity to the town of Estes Park. The running water in the bathrooms of the hotel was supplied by Black Canyon Creek. In contrast to the rustic architectural style that is used by most of the hotels in Estes Park, the Stanley Hotel has been built in the colonial revival architectural style. The hotel’s primary facade has a strong symmetrical arrangement and there are many historic ornamental articulations including the Venetian windows, Tuscan columns, dormers, fanlights, octagonal cupola, pediments, brackets, etc. There is also a classic grand ballroom known as the McGregor Ballroom in the main hotel. On the eastern part of the hotel, a concert hall was built by Stanley as a gift for his beloved wife Flora Stanley. Originally referred to as the Stanley Manor, the Lodge is a small hotel that is situated between the concert hall and the main structure and features a brunch restaurant.

The Whiskey Bar at the Stanley Hotel was seen in the movie "Dumb and Dumber" and inspired the bar in "The Shining".
The Whiskey Bar at the Stanley Hotel that was seen in the movie "Dumb and Dumber" and inspired the bar in "The Shining." Editorial credit: Chad Claeyssen / Shutterstock.com

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Stanley Hotel provides panoramic views of the spectacular beauty of the Rocky Mountains, the Long’s Peak, and Lake Estes. As the hotel overlooks the famous Rocky Mountain National Park, it attracts a lot of visitors and even hosted some well-known personalities such as Theodore Roosevelt, Margaret Brown – the Titanic survivor, Emperor Hirohito of Japan, and many other noted people during its heyday. Nevertheless, several people have reported paranormal activities in some of the rooms and deserted hallways of the Stanley Hotel. At present, many professional guided ghost tours are offered by the hotel which takes the guests to some of the most haunted places of the Stanley Hotel.

Brief History

Exterior of the Stanley Hotel with the statue of F. O. Stanley in the foreground.
Exterior of the historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado near the Rocky Mountain National Park with the statue of Freelan Oscar Stanley and a garden in the foreground. Editorial credit: melissamn / Shutterstock.com

The Stanley Hotel was the brainchild of the American architect, inventor, and founder of Stanley Steamers – Freelan Oscar Stanley. In 1903, Freelan Oscar Stanley was diagnosed with life-threatening tuberculosis and it was believed during that time that fresh air was the best way to treat the disease. Nevertheless, Stanley’s doctor recommended that he should move to a place that provided more fresh air and sunlight. Based on his doctor’s recommendations, Stanley selected a place in Colorado’s Statutory Town of Estes Park where he could enjoy the curative air of the Rocky Mountains. In due course, after his stay in the town of Estes Park, the health of Freelan Oscar Stanley dramatically improved. Grateful for his recovery and impressed by the spectacular beauty of the valley, Stanley promised to return to this place every year for the rest of his life. Stanley decided to convert Estes Park into a resort town and began to build a 48-room grand hotel on a 0.14 sq. km pristine area that eventually came to be referred to as the “Stanley Hotel.” In 1908, the land was purchased by Stanley and in 1909 the construction of the main hotel and the concert hall was completed. The construction of the Manor was however completed in 1910. To bring guests to the hotel from the nearest train depot, specially designed Mountain Wagons were built by the Stanley Motor Carriage Company. The presence of the hotel greatly helped in the growth of Estes Park and also led to the creation and establishment of the Rocky Mountain National Park. In 1930, the hotel was sold by Stanley to the American businessman Lereaux William Emery.

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