The Stanley Hotel

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The Stanley Hotel
Stanley in Snow.JPG
The Stanley Hotel is located in Colorado
The Stanley Hotel
Location 333 Wonderview Avenue, Estes Park, Colorado
Coordinates 40°23′0″N 105°31′6″W / 40.38333°N 105.51833°W / 40.38333; -105.51833Coordinates: 40°23′0″N 105°31′6″W / 40.38333°N 105.51833°W / 40.38333; -105.51833
Architect Freelan Oscar Stanley, T. Robert Weiger, Henry Rogers
Architectural style Colonial Revival
Governing body Grand Heritage Hotel Group
NRHP Reference # 85001256[1]
Added to NRHP May 26, 1977 (Expanded June 20, 1985 & April 16, 1998)

The Stanley Hotel is a 140-room Colonial Revival hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. Located within sight of the Rocky Mountain National Park, the Stanley offers panoramic views of the Rockies. It was built by Freelan Oscar Stanley of Stanley Steamer fame and opened on July 4, 1909, catering to the American upper class at the turn of the century.[2] The hotel and its surrounding lands are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[1] The Stanley Hotel also hosted the horror novelist Stephen King, serving as inspiration for the Overlook Hotel in his 1977 bestseller The Shining.



Freelan Oscar Stanley

Freelan Oscar Stanley (1849-1940) and his twin brother Francis Edgar (1849-1918) were born in Kingfield, Maine in the mid-19th-century, living through the Kingfield Rebellion (1863) as young boys. In 1876, he married Flora Jane Record Tileston. Although he began his career as a teacher, in 1881 he contracted tuberculosis and resolved to adopt a more active career. From 1885 to 1904, he was co-owner with his brother at the Stanley Dry Plate Company and, from before 1900 until 1917, they operated the Stanley Motor Carriage Company earning them minor places in the early history of both photography and the automobile. F. O. Stanley was also a maker of concert-quality violins and a pioneer of reinforced concrete construction. From 1890, he and his brother were residents of the upper-class Hunnewell Hill neighborhood in Newton, Massachusetts, where they founded the Hunnewell Social Club.

In 1903, Freelan Oscar Stanley was stricken with a life-threatening resurgence of tuberculosis.[3] The most highly-recommended treatment of the day was fresh, dry air with lots of sunlight and a hearty diet. Therefore, like many "lungers" of his day, Stanley resolved to take the curative air of Rocky Mountain Colorado. He and Flora arrived in Denver in March and were followed shortly by his Stanley Runabout which was shipped by train. After one night at the famous Brown Palace Hotel, Stanley arranged an appointment with Dr. Sherman Grant Bonney (MD, Harvard, 1889), the preeminent American expert in the disease. Dr. Bonney, a great advocate for home treatment, recommended he leave the hotel for a rented house at the first possible convenience. The Stanleys spent the remainder of the winter at 1401 Gilpin Street but, when his symptoms had not improved by June, he determined to summer in the Colorado mountains. Bonney recommended Estes Park whose climate he compared with that of Davos, Switzerland, a posh resort for European tuberculetics. On June 29, Stanley saw Flora off by train and stagecoach while he set out in his steam car. Having gotten lost and spent the night in Boulder, Stanley arrived a day later, on June 30. During their first summer the couple stayed in a primitive cabin rented to them by the owners of the Elkhorn Lodge. Over the course of the warm season, Stanley's health improved dramatically.[2] Impressed by the beauty of the valley and grateful for his recovery, he decided to return every year. He lived to the ripe age of 91, dying of a heart attack in Newton, Massachusetts, one year after his wife, in 1940.

By the end of the summer of 1903, F. O. Stanley had acquired property in Estes Park and, with the help of English architect Henry "Lord Cornwallis" Rogers whose aquaintance the Stanleys had recently made, he began the construction of Rockside, his home in Colorado. Completed in 1905, the Stanley cottage was built with four bedrooms and a modern kitchen - so that Flora could entertain summer guests - as well as a billiard room, violin workshop and garage with a car turntable - so that F. O. could participate in his favorite hobbies. Stanley was so pleased with the layout of his new summer home that when he built his hotel, he used essentially the same floor plan. It remains standing today west of the hotel as a private property.

Windham Thomas Wyndham-Quin, Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl

By 1907, Stanley had all but recovered and he returned to Newton for the winter rather than Denver. However, he and Flora had become enamored with the beauty of the Colorado mountains, often comparing them in speeches with those "rock-ribbed" hills "ancient as the sun" of William Cullen Bryant's Thanatopsis. Not content with the rustic accomodations, lazy pastimes and relaxed social scene of their new home, Stanley resolved to turn Estes Park into a resort town. In 1907, construction began on the Hotel Stanley, a 48-room grand hotel that catered to the class of wealthy urbanites who composed the Stanleys' social circle in Newton.[3]

The land was acquired officially in 1908 through the representatives of the 4th Earl of Dunraven, an Anglo-Irish peer. Lord Dunraven first came to the area in 1872 while on a hunting trip. By stretching the provisions of the Homestead Act and pre-emption rights, Dunraven claimed 15,000 acres (61 km2) of the Estes Valley in an unsuccessful attempt to create a private hunting preserve, making him one of the largest foreign holders of American lands. Unpopular with the local ranchers and farmers, Dunraven left the area in 1884 relegating the ranch to the management of his employee, Theodore Whyte.[2][3] Dunraven's presence in Colorado had become so well-known in the United States that his situation was parodied in Charles King's novel Dunraven Ranch (1892) as well as James A. Michener's Centennial (1974). His reputation was such that, when Stanley suggested "The Dunraven" as a name for his new hotel, 180 people signed a buckskin petition requesting that he name it for himself instead.

The structure was completed in 1909 and featured a hydraulic elevator, dual electric and gas lighting, running water, a telephone in every guest room and a fleet of specially-designed Stanley "Model Z" Mountain Wagons to bring guests from the train depot twenty miles away; all of this at a time when Estes Park was little more than a locale for hunters and naturalists. The hotel was not equipped with heat until 1983 and closed for the winter every year. The presence of the hotel and Stanley's own involvement greatly contributed to the growth of Estes Park (incorporated in 1917) and the creation of the Rocky Mountain National Park (established in 1915).

Stanley operated the hotel almost as a pastime remarking once that he spent more money than he made each summer. In 1926, he sold the Stanley to a private company incorporated for the sole purpose of running it. The venture failed and, in 1929, Stanley purchased his property out of foreclosure selling it again, in 1930, to fellow auto and hotel magnate Roe Emery. During Emery's tenure as owner, the structures were painted white inside and out and most of the original electro-gas fixtures were replaced.


The Stanley Hotel National Register District contains eleven contributing buildings including the main hotel, a concert hall, carriage house and The Lodge, a smaller bed-and-breakfast originally called Stanley Manor. The buildings were designed by F.O. Stanley with the professional assistance of Denver architect T. Robert Wieger and contractor Frank Kirchoff. The site was chosen for its vantage overlooking the Estes valley and Long's Peak within the National Park. The main building is a steel-frame structure with wood cladding resting upon a granite masonry foundation. Wood for flooring, clapboarding and finishing was brought by wagon from Kirchoff's Denver Lumberyard and the Bluff City Lumber Company of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The Griffith sawmill near Bierstadt Lake and Stanley's own Hidden Valley lumber operation, located in the future national park, supplied framing material. The building of the hotel brought about the construction of a hydroelectric power plant which brought electricity to Estes Park for the first time in 1909. Drinking water was supplied by the Black Canyon Creek which was dammed in 1906

The style of the campus is Colonial Revival, a mode of design that recalls the 18th-Century American colonial interpretations of works by the Georgian British architects Robert Adam, James Gibbs and their contemporaries and successors. Although rare in the western United States, F.O. Stanley chose the Colonial Revival for its fashionable popularity in New England where he had already designed his own home and a social club in the style. The hotel's clientele would presumably, like the Stanlys, have identified the style with New England respectability and sophistication in contrast to the rusticity of the surrounding town. At one time, Stanley planned to build another, more economical hotel in Estes Park as well as a headquarters and residence for the superintendent of the Rocky Mountain National Park that would harmonize with his grand hotel. The Stanley displays all the chief hallmarks of Georgian architecture from the staunch symmetry of the south elevation to the fan-windows, scroll brackets and "swan's neck" pediments that articulate the exterior.

Main Building

The floor plan of the main hotel building was laid out to accommodate the various activities popular with the American upper class at the turn of the twentieth century and the spaces are decorated accordingly. The music room, for instance, with its cream-colored walls (originally green and white), large windows and fine, classical plaster-work was designed for letter-writing and journaling during the day and chamber music at night - cultured pursuits perceived as feminine. On the other hand, the smoking lounge (today the Piñon Room) and adjoining billiard room, with their dark stained-wood elements and granite fireplace were designated for use by male guests.

The layout was also determined by air circulation. The window at the top of the grand stair provides a pleasant breeze across the lobby, French doors in the state rooms open onto shaded verandas and the two curving staircases connecting the guest corridors prevent stagnant air in the upper floors. Although the hotel was finally updated with central heating in 1983, guests still depend on Rocky Mountain breezes for cooling in the summer. Also completed in 1983, the hotel's service tunnel connects the basement level to the staff entrance. It is cut directly through the granite on which the hotel sits.

Concert Hall

The concert hall, east of the hotel, was built by Stanley in 1909 with the assistance of Henry "Lord Cornwallis" Rogers, the same architect who designed his summer cottage. According to popular legend, it was built as a gift for Flora Stanley who was an avid pianist despite her failing eyesight. The interior is decorated in the same manner as the smaller music room and somewhat resembles that of the Boston Symphony Hall (McKim, Mead & White, 1900) with which the Stanlys may have been familiar. The stage features a trap door, used for theatrical entrances and exits. The lower level once housed a bowling alley. Sadly, this feature has long since disappeared but it possibly resembled the one at the Stanley's Hunnewell Club in Newton, pictures of which have been preserved by the Newton Free Library. The hall underwent extensive repair and renovation in the 2000s.

The Lodge

Once called Stanley Manor, this smaller hotel between the main structure and the concert hall is, in fact, an approximate replica of the main hotel built at a scale of 2:3. Unlike its model, the manor was fully heated from completion in 1910 which may indicate that Stanley planned to use it as a winter resort when the main building was closed for the season. However, unlike many other Colorado mountain towns now famous for their winter sports, Estes Park never attracted off-season visitors in Stanley's day and the manor remained empty for much of the year. Today it is called The Lodge and serves as a bed-and-breakfast off-limits to the public.

The Shining[edit]

Cover of The Shining, first edition, 1977

The Stanley is famous in popular culture for having inspired horror novelist Stephen King to write The Shining. In 1974, King and his wife Tabitha spent one night in Room 217 while on vacation during their short residency in Boulder, CO. Upon arrival, they discovered that they were the only overnight guests. "[The hotel staff] were just getting ready to close for the season, and we found ourselves the only guests in the place — with all those long, empty corridors"[4][5] He and his wife were served dinner in an empty dining room accompanied by canned orchestral music. "Except for our table all the chairs were up on the tables. So the music is echoing down the hall, and, I mean, it was like God had put me there to hear that and see those things."[6] The Kings were shown to Room 217. That night, a dream struck King with inspiration for his next book. "I dreamed of my three-year-old son running through the corridors, looking back over his shoulder, eyes wide, screaming. He was being chased by a fire-hose. I woke up with a tremendous jerk, sweating all over, within an inch of falling out of bed. I got up, lit a cigarette, sat in a chair looking out the window at the Rockies, and by the time the cigarette was done, I had the bones of the book firmly set in my mind."[7]

According to King in later interviews, the Stanley served as his model for the Overlook Hotel, the ominous setting of The Shining, his third major work after Salem's Lot (1975) and Carrie (1974). The hotel in King's book is an evil entity haunted by its many victims. The main characters - Jack and Wendy Torrence and their young son Danny - are employed as winter caretakers. As the winter wears on, the hotel begins to exert its influence upon Jack, urging him to murder his family. Danny's clairvoyant abilities, referred to in the novel as "the shine," lend the book its title. Room 217 of the Overlook Hotel features prominently in the novel, having been the room at the Stanley where King spent the night. As a consequence, it remains the Stanley's most sought-after reservation.

In 1980, The Shining became the basis for an iconic film adaptation directed by Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick's vision for the movie differed from King's significantly in many ways, including the portrayal of the Overlook Hotel. The exteriors of Kubrick's Overlook were supplied by the Timberline Lodge on the slopes of Mt. Hood in Oregon. Inspiration for the interior sets (erected at Elstree Studios in England) came from the 1927 Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park.

Stephen King's notorious dislike for Kubrick's film motivated the production of a 1997 made-for-TV miniseries remake that featured the Stanley Hotel as the primary shooting location.

The Stanley Hotel shows the uncut R-rated version of Kubrick's feature film on a continuous loop on Channel 42 on guest room televisions, and as of June 2015 has constructed a miniature maze inspired by the film's climactic scenes.[8]

Film Location and Arts Venue[edit]

The Hotel has also been used as a filming location for other movies and TV shows; most notably, as the fictional "Hotel Danbury" of Aspen, CO in the 1994 film Dumb and Dumber,[9]

Since 2013, the hotel property has hosted the Stanley Film Festival, an independent horror film festival operated by the Denver Film Society, held in early May. The festival features screenings, panels, student competitions, audience awards and receptions.[10]

The historic Stanley Concert Hall serves as venue for various musical groups such as country-punk band Murder By Death which has performed a Shining-themed series of concerts in the space two years in a row.


As early as the 1970s, the Stanley Hotel has had reports of paranormal activity. The ghost stories surrounding the property most frequently feature the concert hall, the state rooms on the hotel's main floor, the guest rooms of the fourth floor and Room 217. Various paranormal investigation groups have visited the Stanley property to investigate these claims.[citation needed]

In May 2006, the Syfy television show Ghost Hunters, led by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson of The Atlantic Paranormal Society, filmed an episode at the Stanley hotel[11][12] which aired on May 31, 2006. The show returned on Halloween of 2006 for a live, six-hour follow-up investigation, with special guest CM Punk.

The Stanley was used as the setting for the finale of the second season of Ghost Hunters Academy which was shown on July 7, 2010.

In November 2008, UK channel LIVING broadcast Most Haunted's investigation of the hotel.[13]

The Stanley Hotel was also featured in an episode of the TV show Ghost Adventures which aired on Travel Channel on October 15, 2010.

Skeptics and "Paranormal Claims Investigators" such as those from the Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society have also visited the hotel to test the evidence collected by other parties. [14][15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Staff (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b c "Rocky Mountain Legends". 
  3. ^ a b c "Rocky Mountain National Park - Culture". Retrieved 2007-05-10. 
  4. ^ "The Stephen King Companion" Beahm, George Andrews McMeel press 1989
  5. ^ "Stephen King Country" Beahm, George Running Press 1999
  6. ^[dead link]
  7. ^ "Stephen King: America's Best Loved Boogeyman" Beahm, George Andrews McMeel Press 1998
  8. ^ Turkewitz, Julie (3 September 2015). "Hotel That Inspired ‘The Shining’ Builds on Its Eerie Appeal". New York Times. Retrieved 17 September 2015. 
  9. ^ "Stanley Hotel Ghost Story". Retrieved 2007-05-09. 
  10. ^ McHargue, Brad. "Inaugural Stanley Film Festival to Showcase Independent Horror Cinema May 2-5 at the Stanley Hotel". Mile High Cinema. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  11. ^ "Ghost Hunters". SciFi Channel. Season 2. Episode 222. 2006-05-31. 
  12. ^ Hawes, Jason; Wilson, Grant; Friedman, Michael Jan (2007). "The Stanley Hotel February 2006". Ghost Hunting: True Stories of Unexplained Phenomena from The Atlantic Paranormal Society. New York: Pocket Books. pp. 240–259. ISBN 978-1-4165-4113-4. LCCN 2007016062. 
  13. ^ "New Most Haunted - Tuesday 11 November - Programme Details". Radio Times. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  14. ^ "Investigations of the Stanley Hotel" (PDF). Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society. 2008-10-15. Retrieved 2011-03-07. 
  15. ^ Stollznow, Karen (December 21, 2009), "The Stanley Hotel: An Investigation", Skeptical Inquirer, retrieved 2011-03-07 

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