Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Stanley Steamer--and Hotel

We took what might be called the back way to Estes Park (CO) from Fort Collins. This route was more scenic, taking us past the southern tip of the Horsetooth Reservoir and then past rock formations (right and below) along Highway 34 into Estes Park, which was named after Joel Estes, the first white settler in the area.

In 1860, he and his family moved into this area. However, they only stayed six years because the winters were too harsh for cattle. Over the next thirty years, the region experienced a short-lived gold mining period followed by a period in which commercial hunters nearly eliminated large game from the area of what is now Rocky Mountain National Park.

Then in 1903, F.O. Stanley, inventor of the Stanley Steamer automobile, came to Estes Park for his health. Finding the town lacking amenities, he set out to change that. In 1909, he opened the elegant Stanley Hotel (above), "a classic hostelry exemplifying the golden age of touring" (Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park).

F.O. (shown with his brother in this photo) built the road from Lyons, over which he brought guests to his Hotel. This marked the first time in history that an automobile, instead of a train, was used to transport guests to a resort area.

Were it not for an event nearly forty years ago, the Stanley Hotel would have been known by this description: "Few are the buildings that can match mountains for majesty, and fewer still those that make such grandeur welcoming and warm, yet as you sit on the grand veranda and look down upon the valley, you find The Stanley Hotel can" (stanleyhotel.com).

This sense of grandeur continues upon entering the Hotel's lobby. There is a quiet elegance to the space--from the warmth of

the woodwork at the Registration Desk (right) to the gleaming shine on the Stanley Steamer in a position of esteem near the entrance.

But in 1973 a particular guest was to add another quality to this Grand Hotel.

Stephen King had published his first two novels, Carrie and Salem's Lot, and was working on a third while teaching at the University of Colorado.

His idea for this novel--a family stranded in an amusement park--had the theme of isolation, but it wasn't quite right. One day, while on a drive to Estes Park, he saw a road sign stating that the Trail Ridge Road was closed for the winter due to the snow.

Arriving in Estes, he found himself at The Stanley Hotel. After dinner, he wandered the long and vacant halls. He imagined the grand hotel cut off from the outside world, completely snowbound. In his mind he met the cast of characters, stranded until spring; the innocent wife, a husband going mad, and their small son with the special gift--THE SHINING. Reportedly, he wrote The Shining in one week while staying at The Stanley.

When deciding on a location to film the movie, director Kubrick reportedly believed that there was not enough snow and that the hotel was too close to town.

In reality, he did not believe the audience would accept the existence of an elegant hotel like The Stanley in the mountains of Colorado. So he used the exterior shots of the Timberline Lodge in Mt. Hood, Oregon, and built sets for the hotel's interior in London. (Information from the Hotel's brochure.)

So The Stanley Hotel is left with the satisfaction of being the inspiration, but not the setting, for The Shining. But it also has this factual description: "The Stanley Hotel is a historic landmark hotel in a spectacular mountain-view location, offering old-world charm matched with the latest of modern amenities" (stanleyhotel.com).

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