The History Behind Colorado’s Abandoned South Platte Hotel
Colorado's western history can be witnessed in many different places around the state. Homes and buildings that are still left standing after more than a hundred years, provide a peek into how some of the state's first settlers lived their lives.
The abandoned South Platte Hotel often catches the eye of people fishing or driving along the peaceful roadway next to the South Platte River. While the dilapidated building now sits vacant, the former hotel was once a thriving establishment.
History of the Hotel
According to the Golden History Museum, the original South Platte Hotel was built in 1887 and remained standing until August 2, 1912. On that hot summer night, a violent incident involving the owners of the hotel (the Walbrecht's), a stage driver, and innocent patrons resulted in brutal gunfire and arson.
In 1913, Charles Walbrecht constructed a second version of the South Platte Hotel, to replace his property that had burnt to the ground.
Upon being rebuilt, the South Platte Hotel became a popular vacation spot, conveniently close to Denver, but far enough to feel like a mountainous escape from the city. Situated at the convergence of the South Platte and North Fork of the South Platte rivers, the scenic resort offered fantastic trout fishing opportunities for guests staying at the hotel.
At the turn of the century, the privately-owned two-story building operated as a stop on the Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad narrow gauge line. This alone attracted hundreds of tourists to the area.
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During its heyday, the South Platte Hotel boasted homecooked meals for travelers who booked a stay there. The Walbrechts also advertised the property's free picnic and campgrounds, tennis courts, and entertaining quoits and croquet set-ups. River access continued to draw people to the Jefferson County location.
A newspaper ad from the mid-1900s described the Colorado establishment as a "cozy, homelike hotel in the heart of the Rockies." Rates were just $2 a night, or $10 for the week. Can you imagine if hotels were still that affordable?
When the era of railroad tourism came to an end, the South Platte Hotel closed its doors to overnight guests. Still, CBS News explains the facility remained in operation as a store and post office from 1937 to 1969.
Hotel Status: 2023
The South Platte Hotel has been abandoned and neglected for decades and is vulnerable to vandalism and damage from weather exposure. However, strong support for preservation exists within the local community. Because of these imminent threats, Jefferson County finally designated the South Platte Hotel as one of Colorado's Most Endangered Places in 2023, ensuring the historic structure will remain standing for years to come.
Denver Water has owned the site since 1987 and is still responsible for managing the South Platte Hotel. A sign posted next to the boarded-up door notes that the building may undergo a possible restoration in the future.
The deteriorating hotel is the last remaining building from the community of South Platte and serves as an important reminder of Colorado's past.
Visit the site of another former Colorado hotel by taking the hike below in Eldorado Canyon State Park.