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Interlaken Historic Resort

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Connects: Twin Lakes (9,195 ft), Interlaken Trail, Dexter House

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Interlaken Historic Resort

The Interlaken Historic Resort at Twin Lakes

Twin Lakes, CO – Historic

The Interlaken Historic Resort is an old hotel, originally called Lakeside Resort, that was built in 1879 and is now an historic area in Twin Lakes, CO. The historic site is accessed primarily by the Interlaken Trail, a small section of the Colorado Trail.

More information about the Interlaken Historic Resort can be found at:
National Register of Historic Places – Interlaken Resort District
Wikipedia – Interlaken Resort District

The National Register of Historic Places description reads: (Click to expand)
“The Interlaken Resort was probably one of the most scenic and most popular resort areas in the mountains of Colorado. Its unique setting and year round recreational program drew many visitors from Denver, Colorado Springs, Leadville, and from out of state. Located across from the town of Twin Lakes, it began operations in 1879 as a small and unpretentious hotel called the Lakeside Resort on the smaller of the two lakes at the foot of Mt. Elbert. In 1881 James V. Dexter, the wealthy and well-known Leadville miner, bought the hotel and 80 acres for $3,250.00. Between 1883 and 1890 he turned the hotel into a unique mountain hostelry adding on significantly to the structure and building a servant’s quarters, ice and wash house, a 16 horse stable, and a dance pavillion shaped like a ship. Blue grass lawns and fountains, as well as a driveway around the entire perimeter of the lower lake, made the resort pleasant for summer vacationers, A steamship, yacht, rowboats and canoes were available for the guests as were billiards and pool tables. In the winter, ice skating, skiing, and sleighing were very popular.

James Dexter turned over the management of the resort to his brothers, building an elaborate two story cabin complete with cupola outlook for his personal use in 1895. The interior was done in walnut and maple with birdseye maple furniture. Dexter was a man of many interests and talents. Born in Massachusetts, he travelled to Illinois where he became involved in banking and married the daughter of the greatest Falstaff on stage, Ben de Bar. Four children resulted from the marriage. The family relocated to Colorado at the height of the silver mining boom. Most of Dexter’s Colorado involvement was in Leadville, however, in 1881 he bought the Lakeside Resort, renamed it the Interlaken, and began the building of one of Colorado’s most unusual mountain hosteleries. The Interlaken was located right on the staging road and was well-placed for tourist traffic. In 1884 Dexter expanded his Twin Lakes area holdings to include the townsite of Twin Lakes, which he resurveyed and replatted. The hotel operated with great success through the early 19OO’s. In 1896 the development of the area as a whole as a popular summer home resort came to an abrupt end when reservoir rights were claimed by the government. Finally, the enlargement of the Twin Lakes took place in 1950. The Interlaken was cut off from the town and access was possible only by boat. The hotel closed, and with it an era.”

A sign about the resort of Interlaken provided by the San Isabel National Forest reads: (Click to expand)
“Land Between the Lakes”

The weathered wood of these long deserted buildings bespeaks their lively past. In the Victorian era of the late 1800s, Inter-Lkaen was a popular mountain resort, ringing with laughter and music. Today, Inter-Laken rests in silence as vacationers stream by en route to bustling Aspen on the other side of Independence Pass.

In 1879 John A. Staley saw the potential of the sapphire Twin Lakes as a recreation site and built the Lakeside Resort to cater to the upper crust of booming Lake County.

Millionaire James V. Dexter had visions of expanding Lakeside into a world-class resort, and purchased Staley’s small hotel in 1883 for $3,250. Dexter officially renamed the hotel Inter-Laken and added over 2,000 acres.

The Inter-Laken Hotel became a popular retreat for cosmopolitan travelers and the wealthy businessmen of Leadville during the 1890s.

Never a serious rival of the luxurious Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Inter-Laken offered guests a rustic mountain experience, but no as rustic as you would think!

The expanded hotel had a frame annex with a hexagonal privy in back, billiard parlor, dance pavilion, stable, laundry and employees quarters, blacksmith shop, cow and chicken sheds, ice house, and boat house.”

A sign about the activities at the resort at the site provided by the San Isabel National Forest reads: (Click to expand)
Rest, Relaxation, and Recreation

Lush bluegrass lawns beneath towering pine and spruce, sparkling water fountains, gardens of native and cultivated flowers blooming throughout the summer enhanced the picturesque setting of Inter-Laken.

Relative luxury in a rustic mountain setting provided escape for the wealthy. Guests first journeyed by train to Granite (five miles east of Twin Lakes) where they boarded a side-seated platform wagon to the resort. A boardwalk led them from the stage stop to the hotel porch.

Culture was not forgotten at this rustic resort. Every week during the summer an orchestra came from Leadville to play in the pavilion where oil paintings of the Civil War covered the walls.

Billiard tables, inlaid with rare woods and ivory, provided another diversion. Guests could also spend their days playing cards, picnicking, horseback riding or hiking.

Guests could ride on the “Idlewild,” a 50-foot steamboat or a 30-foot cutter yacht called “The Dauntless.” Other guests preferred rowboats and canoes.

Activities such as skating, skiing, and sleigh riding continued through the winter. Sleds driven by teams of horses brought visitors from Leadville across the frozen lake.”

A sign about restoration at the site provided by the San Isabel National Forest reads: (Click to expand)
Restoring A Memory

By the early 1970’s, with the construction of the Twin Lakes Storage Reservoir by the Bureau of Reclamation, the buildings were once again attracting attention. If the lakes were filled to capacity, the buildings would be flooded, and the famous old resort lost forever.

The resort was placed on the National Historic Register in 1974. Plans to transform the derelict resort into an interpretive site for National Forest visitors were developed cooperatively between the Bureau of Reclamation, the Lake County Civic Center Association, and the Colorado Historical Society.

The Hotel and the Dexter Cabin were moved roughly 150 feet to higher ground. The buildings were placed on firm foundations and stabilized. Windows and doors were sealed for protection from wildlife, vandals, and weather. All artifacts associated with the original hotel site are now underwater.

Please help protect this site and the story it tells in its weathered, gray wood. Listen and hear the laughter and music of this Victorian era resort.”

A sign about the demise of Interlaken provided by the San Isabel National Forest reads: (Click to expand)
Damming Demise

In spite of patronage by the wealthy, the resort was always a marginal investment for Mr. Dexter. Good management was hard to come by. Mary MacDonald, the winter caretaker in 1896, wrote to Dexter, “We are getting along all right and have had the trash all hauled away out of the back yard. I have everything washed and about ready to put away for winter. I must say, I was nearly sick when I seen how everything was left.”

In 1897, more problems arose when the Twin Lakes Reservoir Company dammed the lower lake for agriculture east of the Front Range. The lake level rose, knocking out park of the bridge and flooding the road to the hotel. This required construction of an expensive new road around the lake.

In May 1899 Dexter died and with it, the Inter-Laken Resort. It never again held its first-class status. The once proud Inter-Laken Hotel was later reduced to a boardinghouse until World War I. After the War, the buildings stood empty.

Weathered, gray, and abandoned, the buildings fell into disrepair and became victims of vandalism – their story lost in history.”


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