Meeker Hotel at a glance
• 24 rooms (15 currently per renovation schedule)
• Square footage: Ground floor: 11,738; second floor: 9,322
• Cafe: open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
• Room rates: $80/night standard, $125 suites
• Info: 970-878-5255, www.themeekerhotel.com
• Famous guests: Theodore Roosevelt, 26th U.S. president and noted hunter; Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady; Gary Cooper, star of the 1952 movie, “High Noon;” William H. Bonney, alias for Western outlaw Billy the Kid; Tom Ford, Western figure
Presidents, movie stars, Western outlaws, even an otherworldly spirit or two. One area hotel in Meeker lays claim to housing them all, and after 126 years in business, the Northwest Colorado establishment still brings in crowds in droves.
With its blend of turn-of the-century aesthetics and modern-day comforts, The Meeker Hotel provides an ideal getaway for hunters and tourists from out-of-state as well as within.
Founded in 1886 by pioneer Susan C. Wright and partner Charlie Dunbar, an adobe building that served as housing for soldiers in the area was passed onto Wright’s brother, R.S. Ball, after her death in 1893. Ball improved the hotel in 1896, erecting the building that stands today at 560 Main St., adding onto it as the years went by.
Although ownership has changed hands many times since, the current owners, James and Kimberly Ritchie, focus on promoting the establishment’s two big H’s: hunting and history.
Hunting enthusiast James bought the hotel in 1996, on its 100th anniversary. Kimberly, who married him five years later, fell in love with the property immediately.
“What I love about it is the stories, the fact that The Meeker Hotel is something so much larger than the people that are a part of it,” she said. “It has the years to stand alone, separate from the everyday.”
The names associated with the hotel are pretty big. “High Noon” star Gary Cooper and wild west legend Billy the Kid count among its guests, both of whom have rooms named after them. Another room namesake is President Theodore Roosevelt, who famously bagged a 227-pound mountain lion near Meeker in 1901, setting a Colorado state record that stood for 100 years.
“Teddy was also known as a great conservationist, and it’s nice to be associated with him that way,” Kimberly said.
Roosevelt’s love for the outdoors lives on with the hotel’s clientele. Seeing a steady stream of guests year-round, the business already is anticipating the hunters who make up its main trade.
“We’ll have people making reservations in the spring and then another rush planning in August every year,” Kimberly said. “The beginning and the end of the season are always real packed. It’s fun forging relationships with people that enjoy the area; we enjoy offering that kind of Western hospitality.”
Although she’s never kept an exact count, Kimberly said “hundreds upon hundreds” of hunters pass through the hotel each hunting season, some of whom aren’t even guests. “A lot of them just come to stare,” she said.
The hotel lobby is a museum unto itself with items like a chair made from antlers (strictly to look at, not touch); an alcove containing historical photos of prestigious guests and memorable Meeker moments; and animal mounts of deer, elk, foxes, coyotes, porcupines and more.
Some of these animals only recently became part of the decoration, while others have been around longer, as evidenced by a moose head provided by James, which stares at a moose shot by Ball on the opposite wall of the hotel’s adjoining cafe.
The second floor doesn’t feature the “hunting lodge chic” motif from downstairs, instead offering a different kind of old world charm. Each of the two dozen rooms is styled differently, some decorated in honor of their namesake and others with unique furnishings like canopy beds and claw foot tubs. An upstairs lounge allows for guests to socialize.
“It’s different than hotels with numbered rooms where nobody interacts with one another,” Kimberly said. “The hunters tend to get to know each other because they all love the animals, the history, the area and the outdoors.”
History also comes alive in another aspect of the hotel: ghosts. Throughout the years, many guests and staff claim to have seen the ghost of founder Charlie Dunbar lurking around as well as another specter identified only as “The Painted Lady.”
Kimberly said some tourists frequent the business solely to see the spirit described by a lucky few as a woman with lots of makeup and clothes from the early 20th century.
“The only real thing we know is her room always smells like perfume, like the kind from the 1910s, and we always have some trouble with the door,” she said. “We haven’t really done many renovations to her room because she likes it that way.”
Kimberly said she is skeptical about the place being haunted, but general manager Nancy Sturgeon sees it another way. “It’s really their home, and we’re just using it,” she said.
Sturgeon began working there four years ago and loves it for the feeling she gets when she thinks about its long history. “It gets in your blood, and it just doesn’t let go,” she said. “You’re never alone when you’re here.”