Thursday, November 22, 2007

Longmont, Then and Now #5: The Imperial Hotel and Main Street, 1909

It's difficult to pass through Longmont without seeing the stately brick building at the northwest corner of Main Street and Third Avenue. I like this picture because it shows Longmont's two grand 1880's buildings: the Imperial Hotel on the left, and a peek at the Dickens Building on the right.

It's now a Chinese restaurant on the bottom floor, and perhaps some lofts above, but it was originally built as the Zweck Hotel in 1881 with sixty-rooms. George Zweck, born 1829 in Prussia, came to the Colorado through Omaha, and struck it rich in discovering and building out the famous Prussian gold mine in 1879 along Left Hand Creek in the foothills. Diversifying into cattle, he built a farm west of town and a summer ranch up in the now-Jamestown area. The Zweck hotel and real-estate accumulation, including up north, were other investments but a blizzard wiped out his cattle herds in Wyoming, the same winter the hotel was completed, in 1881. This was the same time the Dickens Building across the street was started. Zweck took a $90,000 cattle loss from the blizzard, the gold ran out in his mine, and the hotel never made it out of the red. Creditors swooped in and took all of his real-estate except for his home (Mrs. Zweck fought to keep it), and he continued with farming and prospecting until he died in 1902.

Charles F. Allen bought the hotel in 1894 and renamed it to the Imperial, as you see in the picture. The Allen family ran the hotel for the next fifty years, and it stayed a hotel until 1971.

A later, and very elegant view of the hotel:

Going across the street to the Dickens Building, if you look carefully you can see the sign advertising a bank. On the Main Street level, the south corner of the building housed the Farmers National Bank before it later moved across the Street in 1918. This made sense, as Mr. Dickens was president and founder of the bank. I believe there is a plaque inside the BBQ restaurant that occupies the first floor today of the Dickens Building, commemorating the bank that used to be there.

The same corner on Thanksgiving Day, 2007:

The great references helping out with the history described here:
  1. "They Came to Stay", Longmont Colorado 1858-1920, St. Vrain Historical Association, 1st Edition, 1971.
  2. "The Longmont Album", Betty Ann Newby, 1995. We're fortunate to have Ms. Newby as a regular columnist in the Longmont Times-Call.
The ongoing Longmont "Then and Now" series:

A summary of the informal "Longmont: Then and Now" series so far:

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