F. O. Stanley pulled into Estes Park in 1903 on the advice of his doctors, who recommended the Colorado air for his tuberculosis. When he died in 1940, he left behind an irreplaceable legacy for the town and his crown jewel – the Stanley Hotel.
“He was sent here for the dry Colorado air and was expected to live for a few months, but he lived for 40 years on the Estes Park air,´ said Linda Elmarr, site manager for the Stanley Museum.
F.O. Stanley was an East Coast aristocrat who envisioned more for the mountain town he called home. He made his money by selling the Stanley Dry Plate Co. to Eastman Kodak Co. and was more than willing to share his wealth with the residents of his adopted town. He developed an electric plant on the Fall River and donated money for road improvements to better connect Estes Park with Lyons and Longmont below. Stanley was also one of the manufacturers of the Stanley steam automobile, which he used to drive to Estes Park.
F.O. and his wife, Flora, began construction on the hotel in 1907, before he had closed on the deal for 160 acres owned by Irish Lord Dunraven. The hotel’s 11 buildings opened in 1909, complete with a nine-hole golf course, ice pond and reservoir, which have since been deconstructed. Stanley chose to design the hotel with a neoclassical Georgian feel, resembling the architecture of eastern seaboard resorts.
The current hotel sits on 55 acres and has 135 rooms and full conference facilities, and is the chosen location for dozens of weddings each year. The Stanley Concert Hall reopened in 2002 to host local performances.
“The Stanley Hotel signifies the town’s first turn toward organized tourism,´ said Suzy Blackhurst, communications coordinator for the Estes Park Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The hotel is famous for hosting President Theodore Roosevelt and the unsinkable Molly Brown. In more modern times, the hotel has gained notoriety for its appearances in Stephen King’s “The Shining” and Jim Carrey’s “Dumb and Dumber.”
King wrote several chapters of his book about a haunted hotel in Room 217 at The Stanley, but visitors will not find axe marks or the words “red rum” anywhere on site because the original movie was shot in Oregon. King did return to Estes Park to shoot the ABC miniseries based on his book in 1996.
“Many people identify Estes Park with the Stanley and it is still a commercial draw for Hollywood. It is a large draw in bringing people to the area … some people see it as an icon for people who are destined to die but instead lived a good life,” Blackhurst said.
And a good afterlife, apparently. The hotel is reportedly haunted by several spirits, including Flora Stanley, who can be found playing the piano for guests while F.O. has been seen near the bar and in the billiards room. Room 418 appears to have the most ghostly activity while Room 407 seems to be occupied by Lord Dunraven himself.
The hotel offers its visitors guided “ghost tours” on weekend evenings to further educate the curious. Various books and television shows are available for those who want to learn about the hotel from the safety of their own homes.