Friday, June 11, 2010

"Just Taking the Peacock for a Walk"

The dream: Build the largest and finest hotel in the West.

Reality: The dreamer was 20 years old, broke, and with no experience in the hotel business.

But, as the saying goes, with a little help from his relatives, a $70,000 loan, and 376,000 native red bricks and hand-carved sandstone cornices and sills, Henry Strater constructed his hotel in 1887. He opened the 50-room hotel in 1888 with his inexperience evident--there were no closets.

The hotel's lobby (left and the next two photos) functioned like a stock exchange for the mining industry.

The story goes that since each room had its own wood burning stove and was equipped with comfortable furniture the townsfolk would close their own homes in the winter and move into the Strater.

In 1954, Jentra and Earl Barker, Jr. bought the hotel (from Earl, Sr.) and in the 1960s began furnishing the hotel with authentic period furniture. Today, the hotel's collection of American Victorian walnut furniture is known as the largest collection in the nation.

In 1983, Rod Barker continued as the third generation of family ownership (begun in 1926). He focused on the process of renova-tion, beginning with overseeing the installation of fine woodwork and beautiful hand-printed Bradbury and Bradbury wallpapers.

Past the registration desk was this sitting/ reading room.

Just outside this room was this machine, called a Mutoscope, a coin operated, hand cranked, animated picture machine. Early mutoscopes were large cast iron cases that had the appearance of a clamshell and were referred to as "Clamshell Mutoscopes."

When you insert a penny and turn the crank, a small bulb lights up and a reel of still photos fall one by one in front of the viewer into which you look.

The feature that made the mutoscope so popular was the viewer's ability to control the speed of the showing and even stop it for a few seconds to get a closer look.

Although there was no censorship board for mutoscope reels, the International Mutoscope Company noted that this reel, called "Left All Alone," had been "Approved by New York and Chicago Censors."

The Mahogany Grille had a comfortable feeling along with a quality of seclusion in some of the booths around the perimeter of half of the room.

Even with this formal stained glass lighting fixture, the room seemed to invite annimated conversa-tions.

The Oak Room is a banquet/ meeting room for private parties and also serves as an additional dining room.

The Office Spiritorium was originally the lobby of the adjacent Columbian Hotel. Over the following years, this space housed a barbershop, the Durango Petroleum Club (a private club for oil executives), and a banquet room before becoming "The Office."

"Cleverly named The Office, this establishment is designed for those who wish to relax after work yet still spend a little more time at 'the office.' With its lavish and comfortable d├ęcor, The Office can't really be called a bar, saloon, tavern or lounge" (Hotel's web page).

The story goes that one patron, who had "put some long hours in at the Office," was observed leaving The Office with the peacock (right). When approached and challenged several yards from the entrance, he answered, "I was just taking the peacock for a walk."

The peacock is now securely attached to his perch on the wall.

This stained glass fixture over the elevator door added yet another reference to its historical roots.

Western author Louis l'Amour alsways asked for the room right above the Diamond Belle Saloon, maintaining that the sound of the honky-tonk piano from below helped set the mood for his novels about the West. A good part of his Sackett novels were written at this hotel.

Located at the entrance to the Strater Theater was this beautiful bar.

The Strater Hotel was awarded national Historic Landmark status in 1967.

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