Mission statement

To collect, preserve, and share history associated with Louis Dupuy's Hotel de Paris, and serve as a catalyst for heritage tourism in Georgetown, Colorado.

Monday, October 14, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Mines of Clear Creek County

Much like the photographers who captured panoramic and aerial views of gold and silver mining operations located within Colorado’s High Country, readers of Mines of Clear Creek County by Ben M. Dugan will be able to visualize the tremendous scale and development of underground mining operations district by district.  This bird’s eye perspective of the mines, mills, tunnel entrances, hustling mining camps and bustling mining towns is cleverly reinforced by an illustration of John Gast’s painting American Progress, in which a diaphanous figure of Columbia (an allegorical representation of the United States of America) floats through the air and contributes to Westward expansion.

American Progress, John Gast

Dugan aids readers by discussing historical events that set the stage for mining fever in the communities of Idaho Springs, Georgetown, Empire, Silver Plume, Dumont, and Lawson.  A catastrophic loss of approximately $2 million of U. S. gold when the side-wheel steamer SS Central America (also known as the Ship of Gold) sank in 1857 off the coast of North Carolina during a hurricane, in combination with the concepts of Manifest Destiny and National Enlightenment, drove people to the Western United States in search of wealth and possible reinvention of one’s self.  Results of this influx of people were quick growth and rapid changes in the development of mining and the establishment of the Colorado Central Railroad.  Seemingly before one’s eyes, mining camps became vibrant towns with civic services and cultural depth.  Under the protection of carefully planted and groomed shade trees, opera houses and dance halls enticed, hotels and boarding houses accommodated, stores and restaurants served, and churches and schools instructed .

The book is richly illustrated with imagery spanning a period of approximately 120 years.  In this amount of time, one is able to witness feverish building and, conversely, the brevity of many mining structures once they were deserted, dismantled, or destroyed.  In contrast to the distant views, some of the photographs offer details of human faces that disclose poverty as well as prosperity in these multi-ethnic mining communities.  It seems possible to detect boosterism and exuberance due to the belief that mining resources would provide limitless potential.  No matter one’s station in life, people shared a conviction that mining was important, and raised a monument at Idaho Springs, Colorado to commemorate the 1859 discovery of placer gold by George A. Jackson.  Even though it was moved from its original site, the monument presently stands a stone’s throw from Highway 103 in Idaho Springs.

Although not as plentiful as the distant views, Mr. Dugan provides some underground views of tunnels.  One cannot help but notice the dangerous and oftentimes life-threatening conditions surrounding hard rock miners.  It remains well-known that Clear Creek County resident Louis Dupuy was mangled in 1873 by a delayed “big powder” or dynamite charge at the Cold Stream Mine in Silver Plume.  The defective fuse caused life-threatening injuries that required his hospitalization and a period of recovery of nearly one and one half years.  Credited for saving fellow miners’ lives by calling out a warning, Dupuy emerged a local hero.  Townspeople rewarded his bravery with a small amount of cash, which he used to open his hotel and restaurant, described by the Georgetown Courier as “famous the wide world over.”  Due to this brush with death, Dupuy never returned to underground mining.  Yet, in spite of his misfortune, he later invested in mining claims within the Griffith Mining District of Clear Creek County. A Bausch & Lomb microscope, used for the inspection of ore, remains on display in Hotel de Paris to this day.  Clearly, the allure of riches was great.

Despite the abundance of abandoned tailings (dumps of ore residue) and derelict mining structures scattered throughout the landscape today, it would be wrong to assume mining has become a thing of the past in Clear Creek County.   Dugan completes his book with a chapter about the Climax, Henderson, and Uranium Research and Development Corporation mines.  The mining of molybdenum (a steel hardener) has largely replaced the extraction of silver and gold from the rugged mountainsides, and, at the same time, corporations have largely replaced single miners.


Clearly, Mines of Clear Creek County seeks to raise appreciation of mining history and society; however, some attention is also given to negative environmental impacts, such as polluted mine waste.  The book provides readers with a specific language that should encourage a deeper understanding of the picturesque mining towns that so often struggle to survive after their mines close and mining corporations move on to new locales.  Mr. Dugan should be commended for acknowledging failures and celebrating victories inherent to mining culture in the American West.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Why Does an Off Season Exist?

Every year, the advisors and staff of Hotel de Paris Museum struggle with a seasonal dilemma.  However much we’d like the museum to remain open year round, there is simply not enough demand to support the costs of giving tours when few people show interest in the site from January to April. 

Research provided by the American Alliance of Museums has shown it costs museums an average of over $30 per person to serve a visitor.  Hotel de Paris Museum charges $5 general admission and offers discounts.  Clearly, there is a discrepancy between these amounts.  Nonetheless, based on what is charged at the other Sites of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, we don’t believe the public would pay more than what is presently being asked.

Compounding the problem is the trend of less discretionary spending on museums (down 9% from Q1 2007 - Q1 2011).  House museums have been struggling with drops in income much higher than this and are permanently closing at record rates.  Hotel de Paris Museum is not in danger of closing, but these facts are of concern.

Unfortunately, it is the casual visitor who we are not able to serve during our off season.  Yet, if casual visitors to Georgetown, Colorado contacted the museum ahead of time, they would find that we are really never closed. 

The good news is we want the museum to be open more.  The trick is how to do so without creating a financial strain from which it cannot recover.  In 2010, Hotel de Paris Museum was open 100 days; in 2011 and in 2012, it was open about 145 days each of those years, and in 2013 we plan on opening the museum approximately 160 days.  The other thing we’ve done is to open when there is a person interested enough to contact us a few days ahead in order to make a reservation and secure a guide (several times this past winter, tours were scheduled for people who made plans to visit). 

There is nothing we like more than to share the remarkable resource we have here at Louis Dupuy's Hotel de Paris.  Our challenge is not waiting for winter visitors who might or might not materialize, but to work towards increasing interest in the museum during the "off season" we ourselves perpetuate.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Lounging About: Improved, Adjustable Folding Chairs Receive High Marks

Hotel de Paris Museum's collection of convertible furniture is a perennial favorite of visitors to the site.  With a history steeped in Napoleon Bonaparte's French Campaign in the Orient, and later adapted to the needs of railroads in the United States (as well as the style-conscious American middle class and space-constrained urban dwellers), it is no wonder proprietor Louis Dupuy furnished his world-famous hotel with these clever and inventive objects.

Country Living Magazine included in its June 2012 edition information about a late 19th Century chaise longue (seen above, without upholstery) by Cevedra Blake Sheldon, an inventor and architect from New York City.  Sheldon sold his idea to Marks Adjustable Folding Chair Company, which improved the design and patented the product in 1876.
The Marks Improved Adjustable Folding Chair came in a variety of styles that offered “solid comfort” and “luxurious ease.”  The mechanics of the chair allowed it to be adjusted by means of a lever located at the seat rail.  The manufacturer promoted its chairs for use in parlors and libraries.  It appears that by the end of 1900, Louis Dupuy had placed his Marks chair in Sample Room 2 (by this time, Louis had stopped renting his sample rooms to traveling salesmen and began using the space for reading and writing).

Several months after Louis' death in October 1900, an inventory for the sake of appraisement was taken; this document confirms the presence of an “iron folding chair and cushions” in the room where the chair remains to this day.

Louis, an avid cigar smoker, probably read the provocative question posed by Marks: “What thoroughbred American gentleman smoker can…not appreciate the luxury of an after-dinner Havana?  It [the folding chair] is the smoker’s paradise…”  Like many companies today, Marks used its catalogs to paint a picture of comfort, durability, style, and choice; therefore, sales were made by suggesting a desirable lifestyle.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Georgetown's Famous French Inn Grew Vegetables in a Seemingly Modern Way

A couple of years ago, Slashfood.com reported on a kitchen garden trend at hotels, resorts, and chef-driven restaurants.  This year, The New York Times, Country Living Magazine, and Vanity Fair focused attention on the movement, which has been fueled by the recession, interest in safe foods, and a commitment to environmental stewardship.

Preceding the local food movement and Alice Waters' advocacy of the farm-to-table concept, I was reminded that Louis Dupuy might seem ahead of his time.  Although called the "father of domestic science" by Dr. James Russell of Columbia University, Dupuy's reputation as a chef is little known.  Russell later established the first class in the field of home economics after visiting Hotel de Paris and studying the subject under Louis Dupuy.

John Touk, Gardener

The reality is that Louis most likely thought of his kitchen garden as a jardin potager and was simply doing what cooks and chefs had done for centuries.  Landscape historians Rudy and Joy Favretti wrote in their book Landscapes and Gardens for Historic Buildings, "Vegetable gardens...would have been an important part of the grounds of an inn because vegetables were necessary for food for the inn-keeper, his family, and his guests."  It appears Dupuy had help keeping his vegetables, as the 1885 Colorado Census indicates John Touk (a Chinese immigrant) lived at Hotel de Paris and was employed as a gardener.

Alice Waters, Food Revolutionary
Today, the practice of growing herbs and vegetables near where they will be prepared and served is seen as not only economical, but expeditious and environmentally-aware due to the elimination of the negatives associated with transportation and its use of fossil fuels and consumption of land...and the history and nostalgia that go along with this self-sufficient practice has a bit of appeal, too.

East Courtyard, Hotel de Paris

The eastern service entry is comprised of an enormous granite lintel supported by massive granite piers and ornamented by the zinc statue Reclining Lion.  For more about the zinc statuary found at Hotel de Paris Museum, please see my March 9, 2011 blog post All That Glitters Is Not Necessarily Gold.
Courtyard gate
This entrance is secured by an ornamental iron gate that incorporates geometric motifs (such as scrolls, twists or spirals, diamonds, hearts, and waves) and a plant motif (roses). The narrow walkway was likely paved with lime mortar to form a hardened path into the walled kitchen garden area. The rubble walls were constructed of native boulders; the lime mortar was most likely made of discarded oyster shells from "Louis'," the first-class French restaurant that operated within Hotel de Paris and was known for its offering of oysters served raw, stewed, fried or escalloped.

East Courtyard

Fire place and cooking stove ashes were once discarded in the East Courtyard.  Wood samples recovered through archaeology indicate a flag pole or clothesline pole may have also been found in this area, which was used for deliveries and for access to sleeping rooms offered at a lesser rate than in the hotel proper.
The eastern court has extensive historic stone paving, ranging from cobbles to blocks.  These stones are believed to be the original surface of the courtyard.  The presence of the rockwork indicates the area was unlikely utilized fully as a garden, although it is known that vegetables, flowers and herbs grew here.  The remnant of a water pump also implies the area was cultivated to some degree.  Small-scale gardening included ornamental plants, such as roses and lilies, and some field crops, such as spinach and chicory.

Woven wire bench and Lyons sandstone

In 2010, Lyons red sandstone walkways and curbing were installed and the current kitchen garden or jardin potager was added for educational purposes and based on archaeological findings. Today, the kitchen garden serves as a display garden for the cultivation of beets, Swiss chard, tomatillos, and sunflowers. Other flowering plants in the East Courtyard include muscari, chives, hollyhocks, and columbines. A woven wire bench has migrated around the property over the years, but has been on-site at least one century.
West Courtyard, Hotel de Paris
The South Alley, a narrow access corridor, connects the East Courtyard to the West Courtyard between the Annex building and kitchen.  The western court was a service yard that was used historically for butchering and storing meat.  The original iron meat hooks remain on the exterior masonry wall of the hotel’s kitchen.
South Alley

Sublime views of Republican Mountain and Sunrise Peak present themselves above a rubble wall topped with a painted wood balustrade that once adorned the Powers Building (ca. 1870).  This commercial property was leased by the Delmonico Bakery until 1875, the year Louis Dupuy established Hotel de Paris.  When Dupuy later purchased the building, he extensively renovated the structure and eventually removed the railing and reinstalled it on the wall of his West Courtyard. 

Railing in original location on the Powers Building (above) and re-used on the West Courtyard wall (below).

Harrison’s yellow roses, planted as early as the 1870s in Georgetown, were added to both courtyards in the 1970s.  Other ornamental flowers include poppies, penstemon, and harebells.
Hours: The courtyards are open to the public Memorial Day through Labor Day. Mondays-Saturdays 10 AM - 5 PM; Sundays 12 PM - 5 PM.
Admission: Free to courtyards. A small fee is charged for guided tours of Hotel de Paris Museum. A tour schedule and admission fees for the museum may be found at www.hoteldeparismuseum.org

Monday, November 12, 2012

Innovation Lab Unfreezes History and Embraces Dynamism

Hotel de Paris Museum’s affiliation with the National Trust for Historic Preservation is helping build a preservation movement.  As a site of the National Trust, I recently participated in a cross-divisional meeting of the Trust’s senior staff.  HdPM has a seat at the table when it comes to discussions about how to integrate the Trust’s historic sites into the overall work of the Trust.

Hotel de Paris Museum is involved in a project known as “Innovation Lab,” which is working to re-imagine historic sites by probing deeper into the topic of sites integration into the Trust and its efforts to make the organization ten times more effective.  The work Hotel de Paris Museum and the National Trust are engaged in is, in the words of Executive Vice President and Chief Preservation Officer David J. Brown, “… thoughtful, forward looking, serious in tone, yet reflective of our values of collaboration and innovation with the goal of making a difference.”

Over the last couple of years, HdPM has worked to unfreeze history and embrace its dynamism.  Instead of being stagnate, we are accentuating multiple points of view to tell a wider range of stories that reflect the diversity of American history.  We believe this layered approach creates a larger audience for the museum and broadens our base of support.

The removal of physical barriers, development of secondary stories, distribution of information beyond our “period of significance,” and participation of our visitors in the tour experience have all begun to change the traditional house museum model found at HdPM just a few years ago.  Our tours are more vibrant and engage the senses beyond sight, to include sound, touch, and sentiment. 

Hotel de Paris Museum is an ideal stage for the Innovation Lab.  Our small size allows us to be nimble and move forward with strategic ideas.  This shift in preservation thoughts and practices, and implementation of “active engagement” has been well-received by the public and is increasing HdPM’s on-site visitation, on-line visitation, museum shop sales, and donations.

For more information about Innovation Lab, go to http://www.aam-us.org/resources/center-for-the-future-of-museums/projects-and-reports/innovation-lab-for-museums

Monday, April 2, 2012

Street Numbers: Addressing Modern Requirements within an Old Context

Historic preservation is primarily about slowing down the inevitable progress of time, so when Hotel de Paris Museum was contacted by the Town of Georgetown’s code enforcement officer and Clear Creek (County) Fire Authority’s fire chief about adding street numbers, we quickly realized we had some important decisions to make. 

You see, it does not appear Louis Dupuy's Hotel de Paris ever had street numbers, perhaps because it has been a Georgetown landmark for over a century.  However, modern safety practices dictate buildings be identified in order to reduce response time in cases of fire, or ambulance and law enforcement issues.  Fire Chief Kelly Babeon explains, “The time lost looking for locations missing an easily read address number is time lost correcting situations that could well end up with fatal results for the occupants as well as adjacent occupants.”

Mock-up of 4" street numbers using Helvetica typeface

Georgetown Municipal Code regarding street numbers requires all buildings be numbered according to the Town’s addressing system, and the numbers be “distinctly legible, of contrasting color, at least three (3) inches high and prominently displayed on the building so as to be readily visible from the street of the address.”  These qualities are helpful and clear, but when dealing with an historic site one should also consider historic sensitivity, without blurring the present with the past.  And, in the case of Hotel de Paris Museum, making sure the addition of street numbers does not compromise the historic preservation easement administered by the Colorado Historical Foundation or create conflict with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Buildings.

Historic preservation practices allow for the installation of new signage at historic sites.  It is preferable to be sensitive to each site’s particular past while indicating the addition of a new sign is not of the past.  Therefore, in the case of street numbers for Hotel de Paris Museum, painted numbers would continue the tradition of painting on the hotel’s stucco exterior, as was done with Louis Dupuy’s crossed flags and banner mural and the Burkholders’ dining room and office sign.
Louis Dupuy's painted mural
(Courtesy of Synergy Photographics)

The Burkholders' painted sign

When introducing new informational signage (like street numbers) to an historic fa├žade, it is best to choose a typeface that is clearly modern (after 1950) in order to indicate the sign is not historic or a reproduction of something that once existed.  In other words, we needed a typeface that could be identified as a creation of the mid-20th Century, after the hotel became a museum in 1954.  
Helvetica typeface, a Swiss creation from 1957

Therefore, research of modern choices indicated the sans serif typeface Helvetica was an acceptable choice, as it was “a neutral typeface that had great clarity, no intrinsic meaning in its form, and could be used on a wide variety of signage.”  In the potential absence of documentation of the project (through a loss of records), researchers in the future would be able to figure out the museum’s street numbers were added sometime after 1957 (the creation date of Helvetica) and during the hotel's "museum era."

Hand-painted numbers continue a tradition at Hotel de Paris
If you are intrigued by Helvetica, you may enjoy a documentary about this very interesting (and surprisingly familiar) typeface.  Please see movie trailer below:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Saucy Fobs Are Not Tokens of a Spicey Past

Without taking a formal poll of our visitors, most of us at Hotel de Paris Museum would agree the public's favorite object on exhibit would be the salesman’s bed (a folding bed that when stowed looks like a desk).  However, there is another object that also receives regular inquiries from around the United States and even Europe.  The surprising thing is that the other object is not on display and has no direct association with Hotel de Paris.

Then why are people calling and writing us about it, you wonder?

They are contacting us because they have found a Hotel de Paris bawdy house or brothel token. However, Hotel de Paris was neither a bawdy house nor a brothel, but, in fact, the finest hotel in town.  Brothels existed in Georgetown, but they were on the far side of Clear Creek Valley from the hotel (about four blocks distant).  There, a person would have been able to find the pistol-toting madame Martha “Mattie” Silks running a fancy parlor house on Brownell Street.

Mattie Silks

The Hotel de Paris tokens are popular, and examples have spread across the country and around the world.  According to people who have contacted us, many fobs have been found in trash dumps, recycling centers, dresser drawers, or jewelry boxes. 
The Hotel de Paris version is known as a “fantasy token” and seems to have been offered as a keepsake souvenir or for collectors of bawdy house and brothel tokens.  Presently, the value of one of these tokens is less than $20.

Tokens are often about the size and shape of a silver dollar.

Unlike many tokens that are the shape and size of a silver dollar, the Hotel de Paris token was executed in the form of a key fob.  It is cast or struck metal, weighty, oblong, squared off at one end, and rounded at the other.  Ornamental motifs include banners, ribbons, four-petal flowers, and what may be a compass.  All lettering is capitalized.

Hotel de Paris fantasy tokens (front and back)

The fobs are high-quality, which adds to the perception they are authentic and original to the hotel. In addition, there is a wide range of variation in the color (from bright brass to black) and clarity of script (well-defined to indistinct).  The front of the fob reads “FROM HOTEL DE PARIS,” “LOUIS DUPUY,” “GOOD FOR 24 HOURS,” and “GEORGETOWN, COLO.”  The back of the fob reads “WINE, WOMEN AND SONG,” “FIRST CLASS,” “ONE HIGH CLASS LAY,” and “MADAME SOPHIE’S MOTTO SATISFACTION GUARANTEED.” 
Also on the front, barely decipherable are the words “COLO. MINTING CO. 1894” (this may or may not be the manufacturer).  The date would have been during Louis' lifetime, further ruling out the likelihood that the claims were true.  Like the use of real names, the phrase “first class” (most likely lifted directly from a familiar advertisement placed by Louis Dupuy) adds to the perception the token is real.

Print advertisement placed by Louis Dupuy

In contrast, authentic Hotel de Paris key fobs were not promotional in nature, but plain and practical.  Fobs original to the site read simply “HOTEL DE PARIS,” followed by a room number (1-14), “IF CARRIED AWAY RETURN UNSEALED BY MAIL POSTAGE 3 CENTS,” and “GEORGETOWN, COLO.”  They had plain backs and were stamped from sheet metal. 

Sophie Gally, Room 3

Louis Dupuy, Room 14

Sophie Gally’s and Louis Dupuy’s fobs have survived and are part of the museum’s collection of over 5,000 authentic artifacts original to the site.  For a time, brass reproductions of Louis’ fob were produced by The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of Colorado and sold at This Little Souvenir Museum Shop, located in Hotel de Paris Museum.

We have yet to be contacted by anyone who has found or acquired one of Louis’ original key fobs.  However, we’ll keep our fingers crossed that if a key was “carried away” it will find its way back to Georgetown.