The Early History of Leadville and the Delaware Hotel
The history of Leadville, Colorado, and the Delaware Hotel are deeply intertwined, with the establishment spurred by the area’s significant gold and silver discoveries.
In 1860, Abe Lee discovered gold at the California Gulch, less than 2 miles from where the Delaware Hotel now stands. This discovery attracted hundreds of gold-seekers, leading to the establishment of Oro City. However, as the placer gold became depleted, Oro City was abandoned.
The discovery of silver in the upper California Gulch in 1877 marked a new rush, and the town of Leadville was established in 1878 as the population swelled to 15,000.
The construction of the Delaware Hotel, originally known as the Delaware Block Store, began in 1883. The project was a collaboration between architect George King and the Callaway Brothers (William, George, and John), who funded the $80,000 undertaking.
The Callaway brothers were merchants who had journeyed to Leadville to make their fortunes. Their Delaware Block Store officially opened its doors in 1886, marking the start of an enduring legacy.
The Delaware Hotel in the 20th Century
The Delaware Hotel underwent significant changes in the 20th century. In 1890, the Callaway brothers closed the Leadville store and leased the first floor of the Delaware Block to the Crews Beggs Dry Goods Company.
This company remained at the location until the late 1970s. Then, in 1946, the Callaway family sold the building for $40,000, marking the end of their stewardship.
In 1980, the building was purchased by a Denver Company that transformed the first floor into a mini-mall. Within six years, the Delaware Hotel transitioned between owners twice, ultimately re-establishing its operations as a hotel and rooming house in 1986.
In 1992, the hotel’s lobby underwent a significant renovation. Later, in the year 2000, the property was acquired by Kit Williams, who persistently worked on renovating and strengthening the structure of the building. Williams and his wife Gail’s vision was to create an interactive historical experience for their guests, preserving the building’s rich history while modernizing its facilities.
The Delaware Hotel in the 21st Century
The Delaware Hotel entered a new era in the 21st century, with new ownership in 2021 and ambitious plans for renovation and restoration. The current renovations include a brand-new restaurant, bar, and cafe.
The newly established dining space, known as the Mineral 1886 Restaurant, pays homage to the local history and legends associated with the building.
Among its noteworthy features is a wall adorned with portraits, some of which have been integral to the hotel’s identity for multiple generations. The newly refurbished 1886 restaurant is designed to evoke the feel of a gold mine, complete with modern furniture and a new kitchen that offers a wide range of delicious options.
Meanwhile, the lobby is being converted into a bar lounge area with multiple seating areas and modern amenities, including a stage, cocktail lounge mezzanine, the hotel’s first elevator, and even a hidden candy room.
Plans also include preserving the historic charm of the units, while the Harrison Avenue retail space will become a 1950s-inspired ice cream and coffee parlor. In addition, the parlor will offer fresh baked goods and a hangout space and even host an antique video arcade on the mezzanine level.
These changes aim to enhance the interactive historical experience envisioned by the previous owners while also providing modern comforts and amenities for guests.
Ghostly Tales from the Delaware Hotel
The Delaware Hotel, a fixture in the historic town of Leadville, Colorado, has been home to many guests over its long history, some of whom, it seems, have never checked out.
One of the hotel’s most renowned spectral residents is Mary Coffey. The tragic tale of Mary Coffey is deeply rooted in the hotel’s lore. She was reportedly shot in a fit of jealous rage by her husband. Since her untimely death, countless guests and staff have reported strange occurrences attributed to Mary.
Sightings of a female apparition wandering the hallways and sounds of soft, sad sobbing in the dead of night are just some of the eerie experiences recounted by those who have stayed at the hotel.
Whether it’s a sudden drop in temperature, a strange feeling of being watched, or the sight of a fleeting figure disappearing around a corner, many believe these are signs of Mary Coffey’s restless spirit.
However, Mary Coffey isn’t the only ghost believed to roam the halls of the Delaware Hotel. Some staff members whisper of additional spectral inhabitants. Among them, one of the hotel’s original owners, a Callaway brother, is said to frequent the place still.
Though less notorious than Mary Coffey, these spectral figures contribute to the rich tapestry of ghostly lore woven into the Delaware Hotel’s history.
The Delaware Hotel’s reputation as a haunted location has attracted casual visitors and paranormal investigators alike, each drawn by the allure of possibly encountering one of its spectral inhabitants.
Despite the chilling tales, or perhaps because of them, the Delaware Hotel remains a beloved historic landmark, adding an element of intrigue and mystery to a visit to Leadville.
Whether you’re a skeptic or a believer, the tales of the Delaware Hotel’s haunted history offer an intriguing glimpse into its past. And who knows? Perhaps during your stay, you might have a ghostly encounter to add to the annals of the Delaware Hotel’s spectral lore.
Other Historic Sites in Leadville
Other historical sites of interest in Leadville include the Hotel Eastin, a historic hotel dating back to the 1800s that was recently renovated and reopened as the Hotel Eastin after a significant remodel. In addition, the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum also has exciting and engaging exhibits about mining history.
The Tabor Opera House, one of the most costly and substantially-built structures in Colorado‘s history, recently underwent a significant renovation, including installing a new stage, seats, and a new roof, and is scheduled to reopen in May 2023.
The Mountain View Historic Hotel is another important historical site, the high country’s premier venue for weddings and events. Lastly, the Leadville National Fish Hatchery is among the oldest operational fish hatcheries in the United States, boasting many facilities open for public use.