Since I never intend to seek public office and the statute of limitations has long passed, I can confess that I stole a bathtub out of an abandoned hotel in the hills above Denver back in the early 80’s. Although this story isn’t about a hike or bike ride, I did tell it to a friend on a recent hike, so hopefully that counts.
Stupid Is As Stupid Does
I started my college years in 1983 at the University of Denver and joined a fraternity, which shall remain nameless. During the final stages of initiation my pledge class participated in a ‘scavenger hunt.’ This was primarily about young men behaving badly. We split up into teams and had a list of things to bring back to the house. On my team’s list was a bathtub from a hotel up in Evergreen, Colorado! We couldn’t believe our eyes. However, one guy on my team was from Evergreen and knew that hotel – Troutdale-In-the-Pines.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries railways were constructed throughout the American west, and Colorado was marketed as “The Switzerland of America.” It quickly became a major tourist destination. High-end resorts and hotels mushroomed throughout the state such as The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and The Stanley in Estes Park. As early as the 1870s roads were built from Denver up into the the foothills to support a burgeoning lumber industry. Soon after that, people began coming to the Upper Bear Creek canyon for summer getaways.
In 1881, Jasper Babcock moved his family from Chicago to Evergreen to set up a farm on 160 acres of Bear Creek land. Babcock soon grew tired of farming and built a number of log cabins in addition to a main lodge for “summer boarders.” People came to get away from the big city and enjoy the local fishing, hunting, camping and beautiful scenery.
In 1916, Babcock sold the property to Denver Mountain Parks for $100,000. The city intended to invest in the property but never got around to it, and sold it in 1919 to Harry Sidles, a wealthy automobile dealer from Lincoln, Nebraska. Sidles immediately began construction on a large luxury hotel with 100 guest rooms, a ballroom, dining room, billiards room, bar, barber ship, drugstore and baker to the tune of $600,000. In June 1920 Babcock held a grand opening.
Horseback riding, golf, and other exclusive activities attracted the wealthy from both coasts.
Celebrities such as the Marx Brothers, Douglas Fairbanks, Jack Benny, Greta Garbo, Liberace, and Ethel Merman frequented the hotel during the summer season. Teddy Roosevelt and Adlai Stevenson also visited.
Troutdale-In-the-Pines Never Was Profitable
Harry Sidles died in 1935, and that was the beginning of the decline of the hotel. His son Fred took over, and found out that the hotel never really made money – it was more of a hobby for Harry, and at the time of death was in serious debt. A few short years later WWII would start, and gas rationing made travel to other resorts such as The Broadmoor more attractive, accelerating the hotel’s state of decline. It changed hands several times and finally closed in 1961.
We Gotta Get a What?
Fast forward twenty plus years to the fall of 1983. We (four of us) jumped into my friend’s GMC Jimmy at DU, got onto I-25 and headed to the hills. We had just a few hours to get a bathtub and return to the house.
As we got into Evergreen and drove up Bear Creek Drive, one of my friends told us where to park – effectively in the driveway of a new house built adjacent to the hotel. We all got out of the Jimmy, and snuck across someone’s lawn in the pitch black of night following my friend up a hill. We couldn’t see the hotel yet, as it was set back from the road quite a bit.
At this point I couldn’t help thinking about a book I had just read – The Shining by Stephen King. I recall reading that he got the idea while staying at some creaky old Colorado hotel. As we crested the hill and the hotel came into view, I nearly wet my pants thinking this was the place King had stayed at.
Locating the Tub
We were amped on adrenaline and went in through the ground floor entrance on the right wing. We checked about five rooms, and the place was a shambles barren of anything really salvageable. Then we hit the jackpot – a pristine tub in a bathroom. As we surrounded the tub and discussed how to lift it up, we heard crashing sounds elsewhere in a distant part of the hotel. Some one, or some thing was in there with us! We all freaked a bit, grabbed the front side of the tub, and ripped it out of the wall with just two heave-ho efforts.
After that, we then surrounded it, picked it up and quickly scooted down the hallway and out the same door we came in. Up and over the hill, across some guy’s lawn and bridge over Bear Creek, and hoisted it into the back of the Jimmy. We got on the road within minutes down to Denver to get our next item. Some shopping center off of Colorado Blvd lost its American flag that night.
Back at the House
As we entered the fraternity, the whole crew went wild. No one really expected us to get a tub, and the one they thought we’d go to had folks ready and waiting to scare the shit out of us. That was the noise on the other side of the hotel. I have to say this was the best and most fun night of my entire college experience.
Returning to Troutdale
A few years later after I transferred to UT Austin, I returned the summer of 1984 to Denver to visit with friends, and we went back up to Troutdale to take pictures. I also did quite a bit of research at the Denver Public Library (thanks to them for the above old pix).
At that point the hotel was still rotting, but there was discussion about turning it into a drug addiction recovery center. That never came to be, and at the turn of the century it was purchased by a developer who tore down the hotel and used the materials to build beautiful mansions. Although I’m sad to see it go, it has new life.
Finally, in case you wondered what happened to that tub – it became a most excellent keg holder.
In June of 2018, Billy Kid who commented below sent me pix of a pack of matches he found near the hotel back in the day.
Lynwood O'Leary at 5:43 pm, April 21, 2018 -
John Taylor (skipper) at 7:59 pm, May 6, 2018 -
I worked there summer 1961 as lifeguard. Fond memories
Laggert Melackey at 12:20 am, October 14, 2020 -
We entered there in 1988 several times, usually from midnight to 3am. We’d sneak along the back yards of the residential properties to get there. The sand was pouring in from high water down the hillside, some holes in the 2nd story to the 1st story. Fond memories of a different sort! So cool to see this again!
Billy Kidd at 1:45 pm, June 17, 2018 -
You haven’t lived unless you’ve played tag, on motorcycles, inside and around the abandoned Troudale hotel.(since demolished) I have a memento as well, found a pack of matches in a box discarded halfway between our old house and the hotel. I still have them. Will send you pics. Excellent condition.
Congratulation on this epic post, the best I’ve ever seen re:Troutdale.In The Pines.
Ed Pfromer at 10:10 am, June 22, 2018 -
Thanks Billy! I added your pix to the article and gallery.
Dennis Cassell at 5:23 pm, July 25, 2018 -
Great information on this site! I currently live in a house that is built on the site of the old hotel. I’m always looking for information and memorabilia from the hotel. I’d love to see a floor plan or architectural drawing.
Kay Maser at 8:13 pm, February 15, 2019 -
Hi Dennis: I wrote my “memories” of my high school years above regarding my two summers working at Troutdale-in-the-Pines in it’s “heyday”. I have a post graduate degree in architecture/design. I have the ability to remember the floor plan of almost every house and building where I’ve spent any time during my lifetime. I can give you a somewhat limited sketch of the floor plan of the hotel from the late 1950s, if you’re interested.
Dennis Cassell at 10:07 pm, February 15, 2019 -
Yes, I’m very interested. I appreciate the offer.
vypr04 at 7:34 pm, July 27, 2018 -
Excellent post! There’s not a lot of info on this great resort so it’s awesome to find this. While living in Evergreen, my brother & I had the opportunity to do some urban exploration of Troutdale before it got demolished. Creepy and beautiful at the same time. Thanks for sharing.
Lori A at 11:32 am, August 27, 2018 -
Thanks for sharing. I use to “sneak”
In there with friends in the mid ‘80’s. We had a lot of fun. At times when we were there, there were other people there hiding in various places to scare others. We did get caught once and whoever the “caretaker” was shot a gun into the ceiling in the lobby area. Most of the group turned and ran. My friend however fell off of what was an old deck and broke her arm. I think the fall was 1-2 stories, the wood from the old deck broke her fall. She managed to climb over the backside of the mountain/hill and then took a trip to the ER. I was one of the ones who got caught and went into the house. I remember there was a very cool model of Troutdale in the house. The guy made us write our names in a notebook, of course I wrote down a fake name-LOL. Fun times……
Matt Shaw at 8:16 am, August 28, 2018 -
Enjoyed this thoroughly and thanks for calling my house a beautiful mansion (it’s also located in the footprint of the old hotel right next to one of the previous posters). I find anything about the old hotel very fascinating.
Dave Buell at 11:15 am, August 29, 2018 -
My father and I would stop by and fish the property in the mid 80’s. Good friends with the owner. Beautiful property
Bennie Bennett at 12:25 pm, August 30, 2018 -
This is totally fabulous! Thanks so much! I arrived in Evergreen in 1973, and there stood Troutdale in all it’s very faded glory. I loved it. It was the place where the high school kids broke into to party. I’m a match book collector, and the Troutdale matches had me absolutely drooling. I have matches from Upper Bear Creek Canyon from long ago; T-S Guest Ranch & The Corral, Greystone Ranch, The Upper Bear Inn, Evergreen By The Lake, The Waterworks, Cactus Rose & The James Gang. these are all very cool, but the Troutdale matches are the coolest! Fabulous job.Thanks again.
Craig K at 12:57 pm, November 4, 2018 -
What a great article, very informative…Me, my sister, and some friends snuck into the abandoned ruins of the hotel late one summer night in the late 80’s, just to explore and for the spookiness. We explored what seemed to be a kitchen area down low to the upper floor rooms. While descending a stairwell in the middle, we heard a large crashing sound, like a toilet being smashed, from a floor below us. We stood frozen, freaked out, holding our breaths. We skittered our way down and straight out some door and made our way back to the car. It was a fun adrenaline rush, we all had a blast. I was a little bummed when I heard it was torn down. But a fond memory, nonetheless
W. Bart Berger at 7:40 am, December 7, 2018 -
Larceny to Legacy. Well done. This is a valuable look at the history of an iconic feature of the early development of the area, and a great addition to the scholarship about the Denver Mountain Parks.Thank you for this. You have more than repaid your debt to society for your crime.
Kay Maser at 2:05 pm, January 27, 2019 -
In the late 1940s my father purchased a summer cabin in Bear Creek Canyon of Evergreen. We lived in Kearney, Nebraska, but every summer beginning around Memorial Day, we four children would pile into our station wagon and drive the eight hours to our cabin in Evergreen. We’d spend the entire summer there, and return to Kearney the week before school was to begin. My father was an attorney in Kearney, so he would frequently fly back to Kearney to take care of business, then return to Evergreen. In the summer of 1958 I applied for a job at Troutdale in the Pines hotel. Since I could take shorthand and type, I was immediately hired by the hotel manager as his secretary, and I also worked at the switchboard. The manager was from Chicago, and I think the hotel was either owned or managed by a company from Chicago. I worked for two summer seasons there…..1958 and 1959. There were many, many college students from other states working there as well, as waiters, waitresses, bellboys, and on the housekeeping staff. At one point, I decided to move into one of the dormitory rooms that they had for the working staff. We had a blast those two summers! And for years afterwards, I kept in touch with so many of the friends I’d made during that time. I still have some old photos of those summers. I attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins from 1958 to 1962. My father passed away in the early 1960s, so our summer cabin was sold then, and I’ve never been back to Evergreen.
Ed Pfromer at 2:11 pm, January 27, 2019 -
Such a great story – thank you!
William Pieser at 3:13 pm, February 15, 2019 -
I was an airman student at Lowry in summer of 1973 and on a trip to Morrison one weekend continued on to Evergreen and saw the Troutdale Inn – abandoned and dilapidated. I came back with buddies at least 3 times over the next few months and explored the Troutdales floors in the middle of the night with maybe one flashlight between us. I’ve never been in a spookier place -or will again. We heard other movement in the building a couple times yet we never saw other cars or tresspassers. I was sad to learn it had been demolished as I researched the site that I know a bunch of my buddies from the day will never forget either.
Dianne Dreher Nelson at 3:51 pm, March 23, 2019 -
We drove by Troutdale on our way to our cabin above Bandemeer Lodge in Upper Bear Creek as a teenager. Always fun to see it and wonder about the stories it held. My uncle and aunt had honeymooned there…they were from Salina Kansas. Thanks for the memories. Dianne Dreher Nelson
Cozette McCarty Pease at 8:04 pm, March 23, 2019 -
My mother grew up in Idledale, CO. This was built the year she was born. She worked here at the Troutdale as a maid when she was only 15 &16yrs old (early 1950’s) while in highschool. Amazing…..small world. Oh an yes, she’s still alive and kicking. 😊 Thank you for some great memories.
George Dix at 6:51 am, May 28, 2019 -
Wow. Such nostalgia. Along with other college students I worked at Troutdale in the summer 1958, as a busboy, waiter, dining room asst. manager, pool lifeguard …. wherever they needed me. (That was the way it was for all of us workers) The relatively new owners — from Chicago, I think — were trying hard to restore the place’s status as a first-class resort. I must say, their efforts were regularly undermined by us college guys and gals [I was from Brown, two guys were from Yale, gals from U. Iowa, U.Nebraska, etc.] whose ambition was to have fun and go a little nuts with considerable frequency. We had staged talent nights and various other activities for the guests. The management frequently booked specific identity-group for a week or two at special rates, including square-dancers who broke the silence of the mountains and pines with their hooting, hollering, and stomping. I also remember a group of orthodox Jewish folks from Chicago who, staying for two weeks, had the kitchen totally done over to accommodate strict dietary requirements, much to the chagrin of the temperamental African-American chef. We young workers didn’t earn much money (small salary, pooled tips, room and board), but for summer fun …. man, it was a gas.
John at 8:45 pm, September 8, 2019 -
Played in a band up there, circa 1960. What a kick. We were teenagers.
Patrick J Glenn at 4:46 pm, May 27, 2021 -
Great story!!! I have a bathroom/vanity mirror from that place. I obtained it around 73-74.