Preserve our soul | AspenTimes.com

Preserve our soul

(Editor’s note: this letter was originally written to the members of the Aspen City Council and Aspen’s Historic Preservation Commission.)Dear Editor:The Hotel Jerome is the emblem of historic Aspen and represents its soul. Its beautiful lobby, authentic J-Bar, breakfast room, dining room and all the original, authentic Victorian décor, tastefully refurbished in 1986 by Jim McManus and Dick Butera, represent Aspen’s history in the mining days. How can the new owners, the Gaylord family of the Oklahoma Publishing Co., improve upon the lobby of the Hotel Jerome and its main floor?When the City Council said, “Let’s trust these new owners,” caution need be taken. When the Gaylords remodeled the Broadmoor Hotel, they took out an entire 18th-century mezzanine in the beautiful, understated authentic style of Louis XVI and replaced its walls and floors with décor more reminiscent of a modern casino. (If one had studied the photos placed on display during the Dec. 18 hearing, one would have seen the difference.) Will this happen to the Jerome?In 1986, the Hotel Jerome was awarded National Historic designation and placed on the National Registry. When the then-owner started to take out the Victorian tiles in the lobby and replace them, they were told that they must put them all back. The McManus team obeyed the historic committee and the tiles can be seen today. In 1986, state and national historic boards insisted that the Jerome adhere to the authenticity of the Victorian age. They could not remove the stairwells or modernize them. They could not change the entrances to the dining room, move the walls around, change the ceiling, windows or doors. The preservation committee was intent on preserving Aspen’s history.Yet the Gaylord Publishing Co. and their representative, Mr. Bartoli, say they plan to replace the entire lobby floor because some people have slipped on the tiles. Modern spray on the tiles can prevent such a problem, or a larger oriental carpet can be used. Instead, council has left it up to the better judgment of the decorators.The Gaylords should not remove any of those tiles, or anything else in the authentically preserved interior. There is little about the “Victorian Lady” that can be improved upon, except perhaps adding a spa to make it competitive with other five star hotels in Aspen.The new owners need a decorator with knowledge and background in historical styles. Such planning should pass through the state and national preservation committees. In 1986, the remodel of the Hotel Jerome took three years in planning and two years to build. These new owners want to rush it all through in a matter of months. What will it look like?Unfortunately, what is beautiful and tasteful to some is gaudy and commonplace to others. We can urge them to preserve what is already so tastefully done, and to work with the National Historic Preservation Committee and the State Historic Committees, who know how to preserve buildings in their authenticity. City Council should give final approval with public input on every crucial change they want to make. Hopefully the result will be less flash and more authenticity, and the Victorian style we have all come to appreciate and identify in the Hotel Jerome, will be preserved!Junee KirkAspen

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