Jerome relic gone for good reason
Dick Butera’s links to the Hotel Jerome are disappearing but at least he’s got a totem of appreciation for his role in preserving the Aspen institution.Butera’s friend and former business partner, current Hotel Jerome owner Jim McManus, gave Butera the 20-foot totem pole that’s soared over the front courtyard of the hotel for nearly 14 years.Aspenites are known for desperately holding onto tradition, so some observers feared the disappearance of the totem pole Friday was yet another sign of a changing Aspen.McManus is selling the Hotel Jerome to the Oklahoma Publishing Co. LLC. The deal, which sources said will be close to $40 million, is expected to close in early June.
But the totem pole disappeared only because McManus wanted to do something special with it before selling, according to Hotel Jerome General Manager Tony DeLucia.Butera and McManus are credited with saving the hotel from the wrecking ball. Butera approached McManus with a plan to buy the dilapidated structure for $6 million in 1985. They immediately sunk $27 million into an expansion and renovation.Butera later sold his interest in the hotel to McManus. They have remained friends.Butera said he appreciated McManus’ gesture because the totem pole is so important to McManus. Butera said he will put it “some place where I can see it every day” on his 30-acre property in the Castle Creek Valley.
“I’m getting old. These things mean a lot to you when you get old,” said Butera.The colorful totem pole features an eagle, complete with wings; a snake; an elk head; a beaver; a raven with a frog; and a bear. “I just pulled out all the stops,” said Aspenite John Doyle, who carved the pole.He said McManus saw some of his work and gave him free rein on the pole. McManus’ one wish was to incorporate wings. Doyle said he worked on it for four months.He said it was an honor to have a piece of his art displayed in such a prominent place for so long. He’s made several more totem poles after people saw his creation at the Jerome.
Doyle is sprucing up the totem pole with fresh paint before it is turned over to Butera.DeLucia said both the totem pole and a clock tower in the courtyard were a gift from McManus to the Hotel Jerome staff. They didn’t come out of the hotel’s budget.McManus said previously the one condition he placed in the sale of the Jerome was that the new owners keep the clock tower. “It’s the most accurate clock in Aspen,” he said.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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