Everything about the Stanley Hotel is big. From the size of the hotel, to the views of the Rocky Mountains, to the dreams of its builder, Freelan Oscar Stanley. When F. O. Stanley came to Estes Park for his health in 1903, he and his wife decided to build a grand hotel and by 1909, his grand resort was already helping to grow the small town of Estes Park.
Our goal for the day wasn’t to visit the hotel, but to explore Rocky Mountain National Park, only a few minutes from the city. All the same, a visit to the grounds and lobby of this grand hotel is worth the extra time. If you plan to stay in the area for at least an overnight, a stay at this famous hotel will cost you a minimum of $200 USD a night in the off-season. After all, it is a luxury hotel with full resort amenities and a great history.
F. O. Stanley appreciated the view from the front of his grand hotel. Even the statue that depicts the inventor focuses not on the man, but on the view. Yes, you can walk around to the front of the statue to gaze upon his countenance, but the sculptor wanted you to focus on the view Stanley saw once he built his dream resort. The inscription on the pillar reads in part, “The legacy of F. O. Stanley in Estes Park is far larger and more enduring than any of the historic structures that bear his name…” – James H. Pickering, Estes Park Historian Laureate.
If the name Stanley sounds familiar, it should. In the lobby of the hotel during our visit, a Stanley Steamer stands as a testament to his and his twin brother, Francis, for their ingenuity and creativity. Several automobile models were designed and produced by the Stanley Motor Carriage Company between 1902 and 1924.
The hotel became the inspiration for another creative genius. Author and master of horror, Stephen King and his wife spent a night in room 217 back in 1974. Out of that stay came the horror masterpiece, The Shining. Though the movie that was borne from the novel was filmed on a sound stage and exterior hotel shots were from a different hotel, it was the Stanley Hotel that inspired the story. In the mid-1990s, a TV Mini-Series was filmed with Stephen King having a much more active role in its creation than in the original movie. According to the Trivia postings on IMDB’s website here, King was not happy with Kubrick’s creation and that was the impetus to create the mini-series.
King’s stay at the Stanley Hotel was late in the season and with few guests around, the inspiration for Jack Torrance and his developing madness was born. During our visit, which we admit was not an overnight stay, in early November showed the hotel just beginning holiday festivities. You’ll note the holiday tree displays in some of the images in the gallery.
The lobby elevator is a historic artifact in itself. Installed at construction in 1909, the hydraulic elevator was replaced in 1935 by an electric unit yet the hotel’s new owner, Roe Emery, kept the look of the original elevator hardware that is there to this day. The hotel has enjoyed good times and suffered hard times, changing owners often over the years. After a bankruptcy sale in 1995, the Grand Heritage Hotel Group bought the property and undertook extensive renovations that, along with the association to Stephen King’s horror masterpiece restored the Stanley Hotel to the grand resort that attracts visitors to Estes Park year round. The gallery of images below features both interior and exterior views of the hotel. On most browsers, you can click on an image to enlarge it and to scroll through the collection.
A history of the hotel published here provided source material for this article.