PLEASE NOTE: The Creede Hotel in Creede Colorado, founded in 1892, is currently for sale (March 2018). Should it re-open we will update this article. We include it here as a reminder – if you want to see these hotels, now is the time to do so! All good things come to an end….
“SILVER!”—Things really picked up steam in the Rio Grande Valley when Nicholas Creede discovered a vein of high-grade silver on Willow Creek. This 1889 strike marked the last of Colorado’s silver finds, but it was a big one. Mr. Creede looked at the ore he had unearthed and shouted, “Holy Moses!” The exclamation became the mine’s name and the town that quickly erupted in the narrow river canyon was called Creede. By 1892, there were nearly 100 overnight accommodations in Creede, much needed by the more than 300 people who arrived each day in the wild and woolly mining town.
The original hotel building was erected in 1888. However, it was not until John Zang and his wife traveled from Denver to Creede in 1892 and took over this hostelry that any mention was made of who owned the property. Following the tradition of the time, he named it Zang’s Hotel.
A raging fire destroyed most of Creede in June of 1892, but the hotel somehow survived. Many references state that Zang’s was also destroyed in the fire. However, according to current owner David Toole, the hotel did indeed escape the flames.
THE BEST PLACE IN TOWN—As a working man’s hotel, Zang’s catered to miners, drummers (salesman), and others who might have business in the fairly isolated town. None of the town’s buildings were elaborate, and this lodging and dining establishment was no exception.
Upstairs were five functional rooms that probably slept as many as could be squeezed in. A balcony overlooked the often-rowdy activities below on Main Street. The first floor housed more guestrooms, the hotel’s lobby, dining room and saloon. A small building next door—Zang Hotel Annex— boasted a reading room, barbershop, and twenty-five cent baths.
In 1893, the price of silver plummeted as the country adopted the gold standard. Fortunately, Creede’s mining industry included other minerals, namely lead and zinc, and the town was able to stay alive. Even though Creede’s population declined significantly, it never followed the footsteps of so many Colorado mining camps and became a ghost town.
VISITORS AND LEGENDS—As colorfully put in an early edition of The Creede Candle, “Creede is unfortunate in getting more of the flotsam of the state than usually falls to the lot of a mining camp.” Such a unruly town needed a lawman of stature and for a while, keeping the peace fell on the shoulders of the legendary Bat Masterson. His reputation alone was usually enough to calm whatever mayhem was brewing.
As mining riches increased both money and population in Creede, con man Soapy Smith wisely picked up stakes in Denver (a.k.a. “was run out of town”) and headed to Creede where the citizenry welcomed him. He soon announced that Creede would be run on his terms and what he said was law. Soon, both the town and Smith’s gang became disenchanted with him and he moved on, but not before he spent many nights at Zang’s.
Purveyors of the gambling dens were more than happy to help the miners part with their hard-earned money. There were even women— cigar smoking card-sharks Calamity Jane and Poker Alice Tubbs—who plied the poker trade. Both stayed in the hotel’s upstairs quarters.
TODAY’S CREEDE HOTEL—As soon as you turn your car onto Creede’s main street, you sense that there is something different about this little town. You are immediately transported to a by-gone era where there are no stoplights, no big-box stores, no chain restaurants. Here is a quiet town, firmly nestled at the base of towering cliffs and securely in step with its mining past.
The Creede Hotel is easy to find for it is painted bright turquoise blue and is situated right in the middle of the block. Visitors may reserve one of four guestrooms; two are in front and share the balcony. Each of the rooms now has a private bath, unlike in times past. The accommodations are named after a character that played a role in the history of the town and the hotel: Bat Masterson, Calamity Jane, Soapy Smith and Poker Alice Tubbs.
If possible, request a room on the hotel’s front so you have access to the shared balcony. Relax there—perhaps while playing some poker—and try to visualize the scene in the street below in 1892. Can you imagine a couple of miners settling their differences with pistols? What wares did those shops below sell to the townsfolk in the mining town? Is that miner’s mule hauling bags of ore to the assay office? Can you hear the honky-tonk piano playing in the rowdy saloon across the street? All of this—and more—took place right in front of the Creede Hotel.
The hotel today offers bed and breakfast accommodations during the summer season. Included in the price of the room is a delicious breakfast carefully prepared by chef and proprietor David Toole. The restaurant itself is a pleasant surprise in this small town. Excellent food, fine wine, and down-home friendliness are its hallmarks.
Hotel proprietor David O’Toole says, “Stepping into the Creede Hotel is stepping back in time.” Can you feel the history? Yes, but only if you are willing to put aside the hustle, bustle, and modern expectations of today and soak up the past . . . . . at the Creede Hotel.
Next stop on the road trip . . . . . The Strater Hotel in Durango, Colorado
IF YOU VISIT—
The Creede Hotel
120 North Main Street
Creede, Colorado 81130
For information about the town of Creede: www.creede.com