Lobby of Hotel Jerome gets face lift

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A lot of effort went into renovating the lobby of the Hotel Jerome, but if you walk in and don’t notice the changes, the designer won’t be offended.

In fact, she takes it as a compliment.

“It’s a blessing that the renovation is not something that jumps out into people’s faces,” said Ricki McHugh. “As much as people in the community feel that they own the Jerome, I didn’t want the changes to be too obvious.”

But the changes are there nonetheless: specifically in new wallpaper, marble finishes on most table surfaces and a light-blue ceiling in the entry room.

“I think it has more luxury and elegance now than the hotel had when it was built,” McHugh said. “We were walking a very narrow line of making it luxurious and appeal to everyone, while keeping it historic and true to the original plan.”

The Hotel Jerome has undergone renovations under the direction of Ricki and her husband, John, for several years, including two sets of guest rooms and the J-Bar. According to Jerome General Manager Tony DiLucia, the hotel’s lobby had not been renovated for 17 years.

Traffic in the still-functioning hotel was directed around the lobby for the month of May, and the lobby re-opened to visitors on June 6.

“I got a lot of calls from the community saying ‘Please don’t take away the Victorian look – it’s part of Aspen,'” DiLucia said. “I had to tell people we are just giving the lobby a face lift. The colors are similar, and the furniture is new. It just needed to be freshened up.”

Freshened up right down to the plaster on the walls, as it turned out. McHugh said as crews began to strip the room’s wallpaper, they discovered rotting plaster beneath that had to be replaced in a hurry.

Another unexpected discovery came in the form of some original stencilings on the walls that date to the mining era. McHugh said the design was a type of folk art fleur-de-lis pattern in a blue-green color. Attempts to frame the stenciling in its place were thwarted when the plaster continued to crumble, although she said when the walls are re-done in 20 years, the stencils will still be beneath the renovated wall covers.

Some of the biggest changes for the lobby include incorporating a chandelier into the entry room that used to hang in the Jerome’s Wheeler Room, and the new marble mantle on the lobby’s fireplace. The main counter’s new marble top will be heated in the wintertime.

“People came in on a regular basis to watch what we were doing during the renovation,” McHugh said. “There were people who called us to find out what was happening, because this hotel belongs to the community, and that was quite present in our minds. We wanted to make everyone proud of it.”

The Hotel Jerome, which dates back to the silver boom of the 1880s, was founded by Aspen mining magnate Jerome B. Wheeler. Although the hotel’s brilliant early days faded with the silver crash of 1893, it continued to serve as a boarding house for hopeful miners.

When the town went through a rebirth as a ski resort in the 1950s, Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke purchased new furnishings and restored the hotel to some of its former luster. During a change in ownership in 1985, the hotel was closed for a renovation and expansion.


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