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One of Colorado’s oldest hotels for sale: $1

Tonya Bina
Grand County Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Eslick Motor Court
ALL |

GRAND LAKE, Colorado ” One of Grand Lake’s and possibly the state’s earliest examples of a motel is the subject of negotiations between the Grand Lake Area Historical Society and the Grand Lake Rocky Mountain Repertory Theater.

The long, log-sided building, called the “Eslick Motor Court,” on Grand Avenue has been in Grand Lake for just short of a century and is currently an attraction on the Grand Lake Area Historical Society’s “Historic Walking Tour.”

An offer was made Monday by the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theater, the building’s most-recent owner, to the Historical Society in the form of a building sale for $1, with the condition the Society move it off the site by July 1, 2009.



A deadline of Oct. 14 has been set for the Society to commit to the offer.

“It was always our intention for it to stay there,” said Theatre president Judy Jensen. “But it also was always said that it was ‘subject to further investigation.'”



Preservation of the Eslick Motor Court building was part of the Theatre board’s “Phase 4” project in the construction of a new theater building on the Eslick property.

The historic motor court building has been part of design site plans all along, and Theatre board members brainstormed what could be done with the building, such as using it for offices or a place for concessions as part of a greater courtyard area adjacent to the future theater entrance.

But, according to Jensen and Theatre vice president Susan Brandt, the board has come to realize the hurdles in incorporating the building into plans, citing theatre bylaws that restrict donated funds being used for anything other than that pertaining to theatre arts.



The theatre company is now admitting they’re not equipped for building preservation, Jensen said. “We wanted to say we preserved a piece of history in Grand Lake, but we found out we can’t do that. This was not a conclusion reached lightly.”

Their offer to the Grand Lake Area Historical Society is that if it cannot move the building, the same offer will be made to the Grand County Historical Association.

If niether organization can move the building, it most-likely will be demolished.

Already, Grand Lake’s historical society (in the interest of disclosure, Reporter Tonya Bina is married to a Grand Lake Area Historical Society board member) has contacted the Grand County Historical Association to find out how historic buildings can successfully relocate, since it accomplished just that by moving the historic Kremmling Depot from the train track to downtown Kremmling this summer.

But land is another consideration, and the Grand Lake Historic Society is not sure where the building could be moved.

The Historical Society has been champing at the bit to save the building ever since it discovered its significance to the region in terms of heritage tourism.

It made an offer on the building lot in July of 2007 after Grace Eslick’s death ” around the time the Theatre board succeeded in purchasing the three-lot parcel, according to Historical Society Board President Jim Cervenka.

The Society also attempted to put the building on “Colorado’s Most Endangered List” this summer through Colorado Preservation Inc., to elevate the building’s chances of obtaining state grant funds for building improvements. But the Theatre was opposed, saying the building was not “endangered,” Jensen said.

Since about 2006, the Society has expanded its charge beyond just managing the Kauffman House Museum to try and preserve buildings in Grand Lake deemed central to the town’s history.

“The Kauffman House is from the era of the early stagecoach, in which there were the earliest visitors to the area other than Native Americans,” Cervenka said. “The Eslick Motor Court is significant to the earliest motor-vehicle tourists … We want the motor court to be preserved and restored to what it would have looked like in the early 1900s ” which it doesn’t look like today, we know that.”

“The Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre greatly encourages the whole community, as well as donors of the arts, to assist the Grand Lake Area Historical Society,” Jensen said.

” To reach Tonya Bina, e-mail tbina@grandcountynews.com or 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.

How old is it?

The best guess is that the building was built between 1912 and 1915, not long after the invention of the automobile, according the book “Rocky Mountain Rustic” by James Linberg, Pat Raney and Jan Robertson, published by the Rocky Mountain Nature Association.

“Covered carports connected the structure’s four one-room cabins. The pattered slab-sided units were heated by small woodstoves and furnished with a bed, chair and small table,” the book reads.

Built by Preston H. Smith and his son-in-law Alfred Eslick, the “cottage court” was a departure from owning hotels and was the first lodging facility to cater to motorists in Grand Lake.

Eslick’s son Clyde, who served on Grand Lake’s first town council, and his wife Grace, who was Grand Lake’s first town clerk, a teacher and librarian, operated the motel until the late 1960s.

In 2004, the Grand Lake Area Historical Society had learned via the Colorado Historical Society that the building was a strong candidate for being the oldest standing motel in Colorado if not the U.S., according to GLAHS Board President Jim Cervenka. The building hardly has been altered from its original form.


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