Hotel Jerome owners renovate the Cortina
ASPEN – The owners of the Hotel Jerome completed a major renovation last week of an old motor lodge on Aspen’s Main Street that was a step or two away from being uninhabitable a year ago.
The old Cortina Lodge, which dates from the 1950s, was essentially gutted and rebuilt to modern codes. The exterior was refurbished to match what Aspen travelers saw in the 1950s, said Julie Maple, a principal in Poss Architecture and Planning, which designed the renovation.
Ed Towfighnia, general manager of the Hotel Jerome, showed off the rebuilt lodge in a ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday. The old lodge has been used for the grand old hotel’s employee housing for the last three decades. The Cortina is split into two buildings – a single-story structure that has four studio units and a two-story structure that has 16 dorm units. Employees started moving in as soon as construction was finished.
The Cortina received Historic Landmark Designation from the Aspen City Council on Jan. 10. Aspen Historic Preservation officer Amy Guthrie credited the Hotel Jerome team for bringing the Cortina “back to life.”
“I think they did a really outstanding job,” she said.
The Cortina was built from kits using pre-cut logs at a time when Aspen didn’t have a lot of building materials or contractors available, she said. In the mid-1960s, when the motor lodge was known as The Aspen Court, Lou Wille was the owner. He undertook an expansion designed by Rob Roy, according to Guthrie’s research. Roy’s work in Aspen reflect “chalet-style influences,” Guthrie wrote in a memo to the City Council.
“It represents one of the few remaining examples of the small lodges that characterized Aspen’s early ski years. It was designed as a motor court, like the Swiss Chalets (L’Auberge) on Main Street, and Waterman Cabins on the S-Curves, which have been demolished,” Guthrie wrote.
Prior owners of the Hotel Jerome bought the lodge in the 1980s, after it was renamed the Cortina. Guthrie suspects the building was named after the Italian resort that hosted the Winter Olympics in 1956. That may reflect “Aspen’s postwar eagerness to compete with the more established European ski resorts and appeal to tourists,” she wrote in the memo to the City Council.
Over the years, as the buildings deteriorated, the historic value faded.
“It was hard for people to see,” Guthrie said. “It was in need of repair.”
The design and construction of the renovation was successful, in her estimate, because it was light-handed. The changes that were made replicated or were close to historic conditions. “It’s like they weren’t even there,” she said.
The renovation was started in July. The building permit that was issued prior to construction estimated the work at $890,000. Towfighnia said he wasn’t authorized to disclose the final budget. The priority of the owners, Jerome Ventures LLC, was to do the project right, he said.
Numerous issues were encountered during the work. “It was a big challenge every time we turned around,” Maple said. Water had penetrated the structures. There were structural issues. Windows and doors needed to be replaced. The roof of the two-story dorm room had to be lifted to complete renovations.
The Cortina renovation had to be completed before an interior remodel can take place in the Hotel Jerome, according to conditions of a 2007 land-use approval. The approval allows all 92 rooms of the Hotel Jerome to be gutted and remodeled with luxury bathrooms and gas fireplaces. The plan also allows renovation of the lobby, replacement of all windows and upgrades to the mechanical system. The work was estimated at between $45 million and $50 million when approved in 2007.
Jerome B. Wheeler built the hotel in 1889 and it’s remained one of the town’s iconic structures.
Towfighnia said there is currently no date set for renovations at the Hotel Jerome.
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