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The Sale of Longs Peak Inn
Although our masthead proclaims that we’re a journal that includes Longs Peak, the fact is we don’t write much about that area.
The recent sale of Longs Peak Inn to the Salvation Army marks the end of a century-long era. First the Hewes-Kirkwood Inn, run by the Hewes brothers, became the rocky Mountain Music Camp. Then the Columbines Lodge of the Alexander’s, after changing hands several times, became the Salvation Army’s High Peaks Camp. And now, after many changes, including being the Swiss Village (which was a really silly name) Longs Peak Inn will become a part of High Peak Camp. And since they didn’t take my advice about retaining the Columbines name, I doubt they’ll hang on to Longs Peak Inn. Either way, the days of the lodges and inns in that premier view section of our valley are over, save for the Aspen Lodge, which is a relative newcomer.
As you no doubt know, Longs Peak Inn was built by Enos Mills and run for many years by his wife, after his premature death in the mid-20s. They had a daughter, Enda, who still lives across from the Inn, and who still cares for the original homestead cabin which many of you have probably visited.
The expansion of the Salvation Army’s holdings in the valley bring the acquisition of property in the valley full circle. In the period just before and just after the First World War, many individuals and groups with religious connections bought property in the valley from the original homesteaders. My grandfather and his friends were just such people. Today, religious groups are among the largest landholders in the valley and they continue to expand and modernize their holdings.
Longs Peak Inn, even in its much changed form, still represents the spirit of both private enterprise and concern for the environment which Enos Mills embodied and which came to fruition in the creation of Rocky Mountain National Park. It also represented a way of summer living, where people came and spent more than a day or two. Many stayed all summer and came year after year, staying in the same room or cabin.
By the middle of the 30s the Inn could accommodate 125 guests, and it charged $4.00 to $9.00 a day for room and board. The Inn had wide porches and was built entirely of native lumber and used old Limber, Ponderosa and Lodgepole pines not only as structural members, but as decoration on its many porches and staircases. This style was emulated by many lodges and inns in the area, but remnants are now very difficult to find because all that old wood created a very real fire hazard and few buildings escaped. Parts of the Inn burned over the years, until there was virtually nothing left. What we see today looks nothing at all like the original.
There was a big fire on the Twins in the mid-30s, later called the Butterfly Burn because of the shape it left when it was finally put out. While it was burning, people came from all over the valley and from down below as well, to sit on the porch of the Inn and look on while the CCC fire fighters tried to contain the fire, which burned for several days. You can still see the remnants of the fire on the slopes and if you have a good imagination you can even see the butterfly.
These days, of course, we couldn’t be as casual about it. We would be writing letters to the Editor and looking for somebody to sue.
For many years the land in the valley was broken into smaller and smaller pieces. Today we’re seeing a reversal, where smaller pieces are being absorbed, much like a giant game of Monopoly. Will the trend continue? We will just have to wait and see, as the small mountain retreats pass from one generation to another. What’s certain is that the days when people came to spend the summer at a lodge in leisurely pursuits such as reading, walking, riding and long evenings sitting on the porch, are nearly at an end. Enos would be disappointed.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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