Hotel Aspen’s New Look Must Use Materials Fitting Victorian Era, Says Historic Commission

Hotel Aspen’s New Look Must Use Materials Fitting Victorian Era, Says Historic Commission

The Historic Preservation Commission examined chips of wood, panels of black metal, and speckled-versus-dark-bronze-hued bricks on Wednesday, samples that BendonAdams wants to use to redevelop Hotel Aspen.

The commission and its advisors intensely debated which samples materials 19th-century Aspen architects and builders would use. Aspen land use planning and consulting firm BendonAdams made the presentation and knew what to expect since it’s worked on many of the area’s historic buildings – including Redstone Castle and Highlands Ranch.

So, it wasn’t a surprise when the commission and project monitors were concerned that BendonAdams’ request to use black metal instead of reddish terra cotta near the entrance would clash with Main Street’s historic palette. City Planner Amy Simon accurately described as “orange-ish brown tones.”

“Back in the 19th century, trains could carry only a limited amount of materials to Aspen, so builders used a lot of local sandstone and brick,” BendonAdams Principal Sara Adams told The Aspen Times. But the limited materials didn’t mean Aspen’s Victorian-era downtown was boring, she added. “A lot of the buildings were made out of wood and painted bright colors.”

Hotel Aspen faces 110 W. Main St.; Simon’s memo for the meeting’s agenda packet notes that “the project review history is long … the hotel building has been a mix of brick, concrete, wood, and metal. The most recent discussion in Fall 2022 allowed for new material specifications and applications … One important change occurred at that point, which was the change from the approved use of wood for the curved rainscreen, at the southeast entry, to a glazed terracotta.”

The problem with terra cotta, Adams explains, is that it can become pitted and flake over time. Dark, matte metal would be easier to maintain. She said there were also some supply-chain problems with a type of wood that the commission had approved for use in Hotel Aspen. Swapping ash wood that gets whiter over the years was proposed.

Several meeting attendees pointed out that it’s important to remember that the commission’s prime mandate is preserving Aspen’s historic character, not evaluating long-term maintenance or eco-friendliness of the supply chain.

The 45-unit Hotel Aspen was bought in October 2021 for $37.5 million by White Elephant Aspen LLC. The new owners hoped then to begin working on construction in spring of 2022, with the goal of creating a boutique hotel with a swimming pool. Adams says over time, it’s natural for there to be supply eruptions and price fluctuations for some materials. There will be more discussion with either the project monitors and/or the commission about options for materials to be used.


Lynda Edwards | The Aspen Times | October 27, 2023

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