Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Week 20: The Armstrong Hotel
We all have a job in our employment history that we’d rather forget. It’s the one we took to earn gas money, or beer-and-textbook money, or to prove to the adults in our lives that we were indeed quasi-responsible people. I worked at the now-defunct W.C. Frank hotdog joint. My husband washed boats—for a week and a half, but still. In college, a very brave friend of mine worked the night shift at the front desk of the Mountain Empire Hotel at the corner of Olive and College.
Fast-forward more years than I want to admit. That former flophouse, where a visit from the police was a near-nightly occurrence, is once again a downtown jewel of a historic hotel.
According to its website, The Armstrong Hotel has a “long and curious history.” The original hotel opened in 1923, built where the home of the eponymous Andrew Armstrong once stood. It was the last hotel of the era to open and is now the only one still operating. For years, the hotel adapted fairly well to the changing times. The building housed the first chapter of the American Automobile Association and served as an Army barracks during World War II.
But I-25 made it easier for travelers to bypass downtown Fort Collins, and the 1970s and 80s pushed the Armstrong into a long downward slide. The ownership changed, and the name changed, but to no avail. To borrow a line from the movie Elf, the former Mountain Empire Hotel smelled like mushrooms and everyone there looked like they wanted to hurt me. In 2000, the hotel closed its doors.
Thankfully, that was not the last chapter in the hotel’s history. In 2002, the Levinger family purchased the building, and the restored Armstrong Hotel opened in June of 2004. As a guest of a hotel guest (my sister from Seattle), I had my first visit to one of the Armstrong’s 43 “unique and eclectic” rooms—Room 313, a “Modern Signature Queen Room,” with a western view. It was stylish but also quite cozy, a very nice place to toast the holidays with a glass of champagne.
The Armstrong is close to everything downtown has to offer, not the least being the coffee, chocolate, and cocktails right there in the same building. Guests may use the hotel’s cruiser bikes, though in December most people probably opt to walk. The website offers a sneak-peek into all the rooms, but it’s more fun to stop by in person. If you do, be sure to say hi to Oreo the hotel cat.