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, December 29, 2010

A Hermit's Hospitable Home

Frenchman Adolphe Francois Gerard was born to innkeepers from Alençon in 1844.  As an adult, he demanded beautiful objects, luxurious accommodations, good food, fine wine, strong spirits, imported cigars...and an appreciative and captive audience.  However, he had a chequered past that included an allegation of plagiarism and his actual desertion from the United States Army.  Therefore, Gerard re-invented himself as “Louis Dupuy,” a miner in Georgetown, a bustling mining settlement located in the wilds of Colorado's high country.

Eventually, a disabling mining injury that left him scarred resulted in a solution for his questionable future.  Along with his false identity, he invented a complementary make-believe world within the walls of his unique creation, Hotel de Paris.  Either out of nostalgia for his past or to add credibility to his character, Dupuy decorated his property with images of the military, innkeepers, and the French countryside.

In only a few years, Dupuy became widely known as an eccentric hotelier and restaurateur.  He employed Chinese laborers to execute his vision of a luxurious Norman inn close to passes near the top of the Continental Divide.  He referred to his hotel and restaurant as "this little souvenir (of Alençon, France)."  For his guests, the property provided some of the best lodging in the Western United States; for Dupuy, it served as his hideout, and, conversely, his stage.

In 1898, The Illustrated American (which most likely wrote a feature about Dupuy at his own suggestion) called him "a singular character," "a host and a hermit," and "a recluse."  Dupuy was known to turn customers away, close for business to visit his ranch “Troublesome Creek,” and spar with guests about religion, philosophy, science, and politics.  Yet, he was thought of as a gentleman and it has been discovered he courted women and looked kindly on children.  In 1900, he died a 56 year old bachelor with no known descendants.

Louis had not planned on dying.  In fact, an illustration from his letterhead showed Hotel de Paris with a sizeable addition of six more guest rooms.  Furthermore, the ornamental wood rack on which he hung his fourteen room keys had the capacity to hold twenty keys in all.  It is apparent Dupuy was going to continue investing in his property, thereby gaining guests, and, theoretically, growing his reputation as “consummate host.”

The bold steps of updating stationery and installing a new key rack before the property was even expanded indicate Dupuy was succeeding as a businessman and showman.  It seems he subscribed to a similar viewpoint as the character Ray “If you build it, he will come” Kinsella in the movie Field of Dreams.

Promotional tools included the key rack, as well as custom key fobs, soaps, bills of fare, and guest registers.  Much like a cigar store Indian, a gilded zinc statue of a stag (representing Julian the Hospitaller, the patron saint of innkeepers and travelers) beckoned from one of the hotel’s high courtyard walls.  Dupuy placed advertisements in the local newspaper, and had a large wall mural expertly painted below a hand-lettered billboard fastened to a prominent exterior wall.  The name of the inn appeared in gilded letters below the building’s elaborate cornice, and a small sign with the dining room’s name “Louis’” hung on the second floor balcony.  Brazenly, the assumed name “Louis Dupuy” was spelled out in capitalized, gilded letters on the lintel above the hotel entrance.

Perhaps the daredevil in Gerard is what pushed him to build his inn and surround himself with an admiring clientele, despite being on the run.  No matter what his reasoning, Adolphe Francois Gerard discovered the best way to hide was center stage and in the spotlight.