Wish We Were Here: Hotel Jerome
An artful mix of style and substance make Aspen’s Hotel Jerome the city’s chicest stay
For all the Rocky Mountain highs, there’s more to Aspen than snow. Beyond the pristine ski trails and pricey boutiques, a pioneering spirit pervades its cobblestone streets; the soul of the place is palpable. On Main Street, the town’s storied legacy finds its embodiment in Hotel Jerome, the 125-year-old landmark that artfully nods to the past while ushering in a new era.
Built in 1889, the Jerome was the only lodging option in town for nearly a century—a time that saw the steady influx of silver miners, businessmen, and, yes, skiers alike. The guest list has included everyone from Hunter S. Thompson and John Wayne to Bill Murray and Jack Nicholson. But perhaps no one has shaped the history of the hotel more than native Aspenites. “This has always been a locals hotel,” says Tony DiLucia, the Jerome’s general manager. “If they don’t like something, they speak up.”
So in 2012, when talks of a badly needed multimillion-dollar renovation became more than just rumor, there was much speculation as to the fate of the property—namely, whether the project would preserve its iconic spirit. Those fears turned out to be unfounded. “The bones were all here—it was just a matter of bringing the hotel back with sensitivity to its place in the town’s history,” says DiLucia.
Displaying a preference for the past, designer Todd-Avery Lenahan restored many of the rooms, moving some, including the restaurant, Prospect, back to their original position and maintaining interesting design elements along the way. Among the untouched: the hotel’s Victorian brick façade and the pre-existing front desk, with its retro cubbyholes and strategically placed tassels. But cozy upgrades abound throughout the space: here, plaid-upholstered walls and a billiards-inspired lighting fixture lend an old-timey atmosphere. In the lobby, sumptuous leather chesterfields are arranged in front of a marble fireplace alongside a striking grandfather clock, which was salvaged from the building’s older paraphernalia. “It’s all very inviting,” says DiLucia, who can often be found regaling guests with hotel stories beneath an imposing portrait of Jerome B. Wheeler, the hotel’s original owner and one of Aspen’s founding fathers. “It feels like a big house.”
Part of that hominess is the result of an attention to detail that verges on the curatorial. Flannel carpeting, leather headboards, and fabric-upholstered walls add warmth in the 94 guest rooms; contemporary accents, such as the gilded tree-branch desk lamps and chrome hardware, bring them into the present. An upscale Western spirit prevails throughout, especially in the public spaces, where turn-of-the-century materials such as mohair and lace find a place among pieces inspired by antlers, and the artwork pays homage to the area’s original settlers, the Native American Ute population. Lighting and furniture reproductions from the 1920s-1950s span the lifetime of the hotel, adding to the property’s authenticity. “We never really needed to look outside for inspiration,” says DiLucia. “Everything was already here.”
Everything isn’t an overstatement. In one room, the demolition revealed up to five layers of wallpaper—one plastered over the next—the remnants of decades past. In another, workers knocked down walls and found folded notes hidden between the mortar of the foundation bricks. DiLucia tried to decipher them, but the ink had faded beyond legibility. “It was really cool,” he says with a laugh. “It was almost like being able to travel back in time.”
For now, the only time warps come from walking through the doors of the Jerome itself, and in the untold stories that lie in wait after a glimpse of her treasures: a quote from Hunter S. Thompson here, a 48-star hand-stitched American flag there. “There’s this spell that’s cast from the minute you enter the building,” says DiLucia. “You never want to leave.” Biased though he is, we’re inclined to agree.