The five-story Strater Hotel was built by Cleveland pharmacist Henry Strater for $70,000 with 376,000 native red bricks and hand-carved sandstone cornices and window sills in a style that blends Italianate, Romanesque, and Renaissance features.
Strater, who was a minor at the time, had lied about his age to borrow the money and had enlisted his brothers, Fred and Frank, and his father, Antone, to work on the project.
The Strater opened in 1888 as a grand hotel, with 50 rooms furnished with enameled steel furniture and wood burning stoves. But it had no closets, a detail overlooked by Henry Strater, who had never been in the hotel business. In the early days, Durango residents would close their own homes and move into the hotel for the winter months.
Strater leased the hotel to proprietor H.L. Rice and opened a pharmacy on the ground floor. Strater, however, had not included the pharmacy in the lease, and he was angered by the high rent charged by Rice and built the competing Columbian Hotel nearby. The two competed until 1895, when the silver panic put both into bankruptcy.
The Bank of Cleveland repossessed the hotel and sold it to Hattie Mashburn and Charles E. Stilwell, who ran it until 1926, when they sold it to a group of Durango businessmen led by banker Earl A. Barker Sr.
The new owners renovated the hotel, adding bathrooms, closets, air conditioning, televisions, and telephones, plus the Victorian-style walnut furniture that represents one of the largest collections of its kind in the world. Today, the hotel has 93 rooms with Victorian-era antiques and hand-printed Bradbury and Bradbury wallpaper that are appropriate to the era, plus a remodeled lobby and restaurants.
Among the famous guests at the Strater was author Louis L’Amour, who preferred Room 222, directly above the Diamond Belle Saloon, because its honky-tonk music helped set the mood for his novels of the Old West. Other guests have included President Ford, Will Rogers, Robert Kennedy, Dan Fogelberg, Christy Brinkley, Chevy Chase, Robert Redford, Buzz Aldrin, Ralph Lauren, and Dave Brubeck.
699 Main Ave.
Durango, CO 81301