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.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

NEW BOOK: "Victorian Visitors at Hotel de Paris in Georgetown, Colorado" Identifies Guests of the Famous French Inn

"Victorian Visitors" commemorates the 60th anniversary of Hotel de Paris Museum

The three most asked visitor questions at Hotel de Paris Museum are: 1) Is the hotel haunted?, 2) Can I get a room or a meal?, and 3) Who stayed at the hotel?  Museum staff were able to answer the first two questions rather easily, but the third question was more difficult to address with any certainty due to a lack of analysis of the guest registers from Louis Dupuy’s Hotel de Paris.  In fact, until recently, no paper or book had been written about guests of the Hotel.

History Colorado owns five guest registers from Louis Dupuy's Hotel de Paris

For many years, there had been only a vague understanding of the clientele of the Hotel.  In 2007, a survey indicated one of the most interesting aspects of the site to today’s visitor is who dined, drank, and slept at Hotel de Paris.  Therefore, out of respect for our visitors and a commitment to scholarly study of the site, the five extant volumes of the registers were meticulously analyzed by Constance Merrill Primus, a volunteer for Hotel de Paris Museum and an active member of The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of Colorado (the organization that has owned the site and operated it as Hotel de Paris Museum since 1954).

About the same time as the visitor questionnaire, Mrs. Primus began to decipher and transcribe handwritten names found in several volumes of the Hotel’s guest registers.  Five large volumes of signatures are owned by History Colorado and span the periods July 1881-July 1883, December 1887-April 1889, June 1891-April 1893, April 1893-October 1895, and February 1897-July 1914.  Four volumes are housed at the Stephen H. Hart Library and Research Center of the History Colorado Center; however, one volume is on loan to Hotel de Paris Museum, where it is on permanent placement in a locked cabinet so that it may be seen and enjoyed.  The registers were given in 1967 to the Colorado Historical Society (now History Colorado) by James Grafton Rogers, former Assistant Secretary of State in the Hoover Administration and police judge of Georgetown, Colorado.

Police Judge James Grafton Rogers

Starting in 2008, outgoing loans of the registers took place between History Colorado and the Museum for purposes of study.  History Colorado loans for “reasonable periods of time, materials and exhibits possessed by the society to responsible borrowers under adequate safeguards.”

Author Constance Merrill Primus

The initial intent of Constance Merrill Primus’ project was to create a legible and searchable database for people interested in determining who stayed or dined at Hotel de Paris.  Information (such as name, residence, time, and room) is periodically requested by genealogists who have reason to believe their ancestors, or subjects of their research, may have visited Hotel de Paris when it was still in operation as a fine hotel and first-class French restaurant.  Work is underway to provide the database as an online resource on the website of Hotel de Paris Museum.  Like the list of resources provided in Victorian Visitors at the Hotel de Paris in Georgetown, Colorado, it is anticipated the interactive online database will stimulate interest and involvement in history.

Mrs. Primus began untangling tens of thousands of Victorian era signatures written in cursive.  These names provided evidence of visits by individuals from locations far and wide.  Through her diligent work, she uncovered the humanity of individuals.  Typical of the period, there was an abundance of flourishes.  Numerous smudges, wavering lines, and uneven line thickness added to the difficulties of untying the many artistically inked loops and strokes. 

Examples of the hand-written signatures

Leading up to the sixtieth anniversary of Hotel de Paris Museum, it was suggested by Museum Director Kevin Kuharic that the painstaking efforts of Mrs. Primus be expanded into a book in order to commemorate the Museum’s six decades of service to the public.  From her seven-years-long project, emerged a better understanding of the fascinating clientele who dined, drank, and slept at this “typical French inn” and one of the best hotels in Colorado. 

Each name (totaling over 18,000 individual records) was transcribed by Mrs. Primus.  She verified types of visitors and grouped them into the categories of diners, miners, railroad men, commercial travelers, lady tourists, and entertainers.  The long list of guests included Heneage M. Griffin (a wealthy investor from England), Lena Stoiber (Silverton’s “Captain Jack”), Robert A. Sedgwick (railroad conductor), Fritz Thies (cigar factory owner and musician), Helen Barnum Buchtel (property developer), and Mrs. General Tom Thumb (world-famous “little person”).  This small sampling of visitors illustrates the diverse backgrounds and personalities drawn to Colorado in its first quarter century and helps illustrate the expansion of the American West.  Mrs. Primus successfully tells the story of immigration, the rise of industry, the construction of rail roads, the growth and collapse of silver mining, the role of privileged 19th century women, and the disastrous effects of the Panic of 1893.

Example of a blotter page

In addition, solid historical research revealed proprietor Louis Dupuy hosted women, which contradicted reports beginning in 1911 that Dupuy turned women away from his establishment.  In addition, it was discovered there were Jewish traveling salesmen who rented the Hotel’s sample rooms and sold their goods to Georgetown locals and others in the vicinity.   Prior to this, the existence of women guests was in question and the contributions of Jewish people were unknown.  Victorian Visitors at the Hotel de Paris in Georgetown, Colorado has expanded the story of Hotel de Paris to be more inclusive and truly representative of the history of the site by reconstructing the lives of people from their personal signatures. 

Mrs. General Tom Thumb is perhaps the most famous guest of Hotel de Paris

Victorian Visitors at the Hotel de Paris in Georgetown, Colorado has helped make Hotel de Paris more relevant with diverse communities by telling stories that embrace a fuller range of cultural experiences.  The expansion of the site’s list of key historical figures has allowed the Museum to speak more effectively to race, creed, gender, age, abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds.  Just recently, the new understanding of the site has enabled the management of Hotel de Paris Museum to apply for a grant to fund an Interpretive Plan that will help tell some of the stories discovered by Constance Merrill Primus on guided and self-guided tours of the site.

Victorian Visitors at the Hotel de Paris in Georgetown, Colorado is available at Hotel de Paris Museum, Georgetown Gateway Visitor Center, Hamill House Museum, and Tattered Cover Book Store.  $16.95 + tax.

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 faƧade, 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: