From Clark Gable to Buffalo Bill, the swanky Cliff House in Manitou Springs was early 20th century’s “it” place
Back in the early 20th century, you weren’t anybody unless you’d been to Manitou Springs, Colorado and stayed at the Cliff House. Older than the state itself, this Victorian beauty catered to such notables as Clark Gable, P.T. Barnum, Thomas Edison, Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Dickens, Buffalo Bill Cody and J. Paul Getty.
This Who’s Who of the Golden Era came to partake of Manitou’s famous healing mineral springs, nine in total.
Located at the base of Pike’s Peak, the Cliff House, 100 years later, is still pulling down awards and still attracting people of refined taste.
Built in the winter of 1873, the Cliff House started as a 20-room boarding house for gold miners taking the stagecoach from Colorado Springs to Leadville. Wanna-be millionaires loved the rambling porches and inviting parlors and tents were often pitched outdoors to accommodate extras.
In 1886, six-term mayor, Edward E. Nichols, who moved to Manitou Springs to battle tuberculosis, bought the hotel and said, “Forget miners. Let’s capitalize on our healing springs and make it a prime destination for wealthy travelers.”
Collaborating with Colorado Governor Oliver Shoup, Nichols expanded the Cliff House from 20 rooms to the four and a half-story building that stands today. He built a spa (only at that time it was called a bath house) and began throwing concerts and formal dinners and hiring bellmen to deliver fresh, cool glasses of sparkling water from nearby Soda Springs.
Although it endured a 1921 flash flood that washed out its grill and destroyed all its hymn books, a 1982 fire and 16 years of vacancy, this historic property, after being placed on the National Registry of Historic Places, roared back to life in 1999 after a $10.5 million restoration.
Today, with its 54 graciously-appointed rooms and suites, a four-diamond dining room, a wine cellar that regularly wins awards from both Wine Spectator and Robert Parker’s Wine Enthusiast, two master sommeliers (somebody has to oversee the 700 bottles of fine wine) and a garden patio with a fire pit and OMG views of Pike’s Peak, its no wonder Travel+Leisure ranks The Cliff House as one of the world’s 100 best hotels. The head chef, Scott Savage even has his own cooking show.
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