Learn Hotel Jerome and Aspen: Silver Boom, Bust and Bauhaus
Hotel Jerome has a rich history, one that parallels with the history of Aspen itself. During its silver boom years in the late 19th century—when fortunes rose dramatically and all anyone could see was up—department store magnate Jerome B. Wheeler envisioned a rival to the grande dame hotels of Europe. Hotel Jerome was born.
When Aspen eventually went bust after the 1893 Silver Panic, so too did Hotel Jerome… almost. It struggled to keep its doors open, and for a time operated as a boarding house that charged a mere $10 a month.
Then in 1936 came the first glimmer of Aspen as the bustling ski town it’s known as today. Swiss avalanche expert Andre Roch was brought in to scout potential ski operations and eventually laid the first ski trail on Aspen Mountain. Lured by the slopes, Elizabeth Paepcke, wife of Chicago industrialist Walter Paepcke, came to Aspen just a few years later, staying at Hotel Jerome.
“You simply must see it. It’s the most beautifully untouched place in the world,” she wrote of Aspen to her husband.
When he arrived, it was obvious he, too, agreed. The Paepckes invited Bauhaus designer Herbert Bayer to move to Aspen as well, hiring him to help implement their vision of Aspen as a special town organized around art and culture, surrounded by unparalleled nature. One of his first projects? The restoration of Hotel Jerome, painting the building’s red-brick exterior white with blue “eyebrows” over the windows—the stuff of local legend. Bayer also restored the Wheeler Opera House, which had been damaged by several fires, and designed the 40-acre Aspen Institute campus, arguably his greatest achievement.
Hotel Jerome’s white paint is long gone, but as Aspen celebrates 100 years of Bauhaus, let’s take a moment to honor Bayer and his legacy in town.