A Room With A View? No, A Room With Air. | AspenTimes.com

A Room With A View? No, A Room With Air.

Colorado Historical SocietyThis photo shows 17th Street in Denver with the Brown Palace on the right luxury rooms with windows!

The four-story Hotel Jerome hosted the best of guests in Victorian times. A walk around the base of the hotel today does not reveal its interior secret. Views from the rooftop, or from one of the upper interior rooms reveal that the original massive building forms a doughnut above the ground floor. This empty-core design, popular in 1890s commercial construction, provides some rooms with inside-facing windows.Travelers who could afford the better hotels did not seek rooms with a view as much as they sought rooms with fresh air. Infrequent bathing, the prevalence of cigar smoke and soot-saturated train travel all contributed to room odors. Rooms were not cleaned as thoroughly as they are today with the added touch of scented sanitizers. Throwing open a window to air out the small rooms had to suffice.In the 19th century, natural light was not a substitute for flickering fluorescent. Electricity was not an option. An interior room without a window was drab and dark. Add the fumes of an oil lantern and it becomes obvious why guests spent little time in their rooms.

A room at Aspens Clarendon Hotel, built on the corner of Durant and Mill, cost two dollars a night in the 1890s, half the rate of the Jerome. Its three floors of rooms housed 150 guests. Unlike most rooming houses of the time, every room had a window. Packing that many people into a small building meant that windows were closely spaced the distance between almost equaled the window height. Rooms had enough space for little more than a bed. Bathrooms were shared, down the hall.Clarendon was a popular hotel name in the 1890s. The most famous, in London, was owned by the Clarendon Hotel Company. The Clarendon in New York was a prominent destination for travelers. Leadville boasted a three-story, amply windowed structure that mirrored Aspens. It provided retail space on the bottom floor, convenient to the Tabor Opera House next door. Near another Tabor Opera House, Denvers famous Brown Palace was built in 1892. So many windows laced its faade that it is a wonder the stone building remains standing.Hotel fires were common before electric lighting replaced hazardous oil lamps. That is another reason privileged patrons preferred a room with a window. The second means of egress contributed to contented sleep. Aspens Clarendon burned to the ground twice. The photo above documents Aspens first Clarendon. Its replacement added a wraparound balcony on the second floor that served as a form of fire escape; even third-floor guests could crawl out their windows and drop one floor to safety.In winter a window required a few extra blankets, a small price to pay for the luxuries of light, fresh air and safety. Tim Willoughbys family story parallels Aspens. He began sharing folklore while a teacher for Aspen Country Day School and Colorado Mountain College. Now a tourist in his native town, he views it with historical perspective. He can be contacted at redmtn@schat.net.

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