In the 1890s, the town of Dunton, Colorado, had a population of 500, most of whom worked the nearby mines. By 1918, the mine had shut down and Dunton, like many Colorado towns, became a ghost town. Although it had a short reincarnation in the 1970s as a hangout for hippies, bikers, and nude volleyball types who traded beers for dips in the hot springs, its bordello, saloon, and cabins basically sat boarded up for 75 years.
Then in 1994, a couple Europeans who were skiing in nearby Telluride heard that the entire town was for sale at about the same price as a condo in Aspen. Fifteen minutes after finding the place (it’s a good 45 minutes from the nearest non-ghost town), the friends decided to snatch it up, battered façade be damned.
After funneling $3 million into the 187-acre place (each of the 12 cabins is decorated by a Munich art dealer with a monstrous budget and extremely good taste), they found that they’d fallen so madly in love with their “vild vest” ghost town that, rather than sell lots, as they had originally intended, they’d rent them out. Before long, they opened their ghost town spa to individual guests such as Darryl Hannah, Tom Cruise, and Ralph Lauren, who happens to own a vast acreage nearby.
The yoga room is a former Pony Express stop, the bath house still has bullet holes in it, the library is an old barn furnished with distressed-leather armchairs and bearskin rugs, one of the four hot springs (two indoors, two out) is located in a tepee, and the dining hall is the town’s old saloon with a long wooden bar scratched with names of people who have tipped the bottle there. Butch Cassidy, who allegedly stayed in Dunton after robbing his first bank in Telluride, provided one of the autographs.
Each of the 12 restored cabins, although imperfect on the outside, is tremendously luxurious on the inside, with African textiles, baronial antiques, broadband internet, radiant floor heating, and hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of art.
Dunton Hot Springs, which can only be reached via a 22-mile dirt road, is a perfect hideout for camera-shy celebs. www.duntonhotsprings.com.