About

The St. Elmo Hotel was built by Mrs. Kit­tie Heit who owned and oper­ated the already exist­ing Bon Ton Restau­rant. The Bon Ton appar­ently dates from the 1880’s, as evi­dence by an arti­cle appear­ing in an 1886 edi­tion of the Solid Mul­doon, which praised:

The Bon Ton Restau­rant com­bines excel­lent fare and cour­te­ous treat­ment to a degree that ren­ders liv­ing kind of home­like. It is by far the best estab­lish­ment of the kind in Ouray.”

It is believed that Kit­tie became the owner of the Bon Ton around 1890.

Con­struc­tion started on the St. Elmo, which was built next door to the restau­rant, in the spring of 1897 and was com­pleted the fol­low­ing spring. When fin­ished, the restau­rant was moved into the new hotel. The first news­pa­per ad for the hotel appeared in the “Ouray Her­ald” on April 21, 1898 stating:

THE ST. ELMO HOTEL
Reg­u­lar board­ers $1.00 per day
Tran­sients $1.50
New and mod­ern in all it’s appointments.

The hotel was the miner’s hotel. Aunt Kit­tie, as the min­ers called her, was a favorite of the men. She often took care of a down and out miner with a free room and/or meal. She was sym­pa­thetic to the miner’ union move­ment and the hotel soon became very pop­u­lar for the Min­ers’ Union social events. The West­ern Fed­er­a­tion of Labor who were self pro­claimed social­ists and con­tro­ver­sial lead­ers of the union move­ment in the West­ern U.S. at the turn of the cen­tury, took up space in the hotel dur­ing the height of the volatile union labor activ­i­ties in the San Juan region.

Kit­tie Heit died in May 1915 and the “Ouray Her­ald” paid trib­ute to the lady:

Her many acts of kind­ness and char­ity are legion and she was rec­og­nized as the min­ers’ friend. They     were always wel­come at her home whether flush with money or down and out. Her hotel came about as     near being a real home for the lone­some and home­less as pos­si­ble and every­thing was done for the     com­fort and plea­sure of “her boys.” Dur­ing her res­i­dence in Ouray she had been a reg­u­lar “mother” to     hun­dreds and no one could pos­si­bly be missed more than she.”

The hotel passed from her family’s hands about 1923. It has had many own­ers through­out the years. Some, dur­ing the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, tried hard to mod­ern­ize it by changes in appear­ance, mod­ern fur­nish­ings, enlarg­ing rooms and adding baths. In the mid 1970’s efforts were made to revert the decor back to its orig­i­nal era. The cur­rent own­ers have exten­sively ren­o­vated the facil­i­ties and it is now attrac­tively fur­nished to  reflect its Vic­to­rian heritage.

The orig­i­nal Bon Ton build­ing sub­se­quently became a Chi­nese laun­dry as well as other busi­nesses before being removed. The site is now the patio area of the hotel.

The St. Elmo Hotel is one of the few hotels in the region that has enjoyed almost con­tin­u­ous oper­a­tion, and today oper­ates as a small finely main­tained nine room bed and break­fast inn. The hotel is fur­nished with fine antiques, many of which are thought to be orig­i­nal fur­nish­ings. The Bon Ton Restau­rant, now located in the base­ment level of the hotel, is one of the finest restau­rants on the West­ern slope with an award win­ning wine list. The hotel is listed in the National Reg­istry of His­tor­i­cal build­ings and is part of Ouray’s National His­toric District.