ABOUT THE HOTEL
Originally known as the Thomson Block, the Grand Hotel was commissioned in 1882 by Mr. W.S. Thomson; a perfume importer and mill owner who hailed from New York City. Completed in 1883, in just under 10 months the massive granite structure became renowned for being the largest single standing structure south of Denver. The Grand Hotel was the Crown Jewel of Silverton and quickly become the pinnacle of luxury in the Southwest. After completion, the Hotel played a critical role in the boom town years.
Serving the town for nearly 25 years the entire second floor of the Grand Hotel was the base of operations for the Town of Silverton and San Juan County, serving as the official town and county seat; providing much needed office space for local officials. The buildings first floor was the home to the local Post Office, town bank, Bureau of Mines, General Store, Doctors office and the Silverton Standard Newspaper.
With mine production waning, the town was changing and so was the Grand Hotel. The Victorian era building was sold and was renamed the Imperial Hotel until it changed hands once again in 1951. After an extensive restoration the hotel reopened its doors to the public under its current name sake, the Grand Imperial Hotel.
The Grand Lady of the San Juan’s now over 135 years in age had fallen into disrepair and yearned for someone to take on the monumental task of not only preserving, but restoring the gilded granite edifice to its former eminence.
The Harper family, owners of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, purchased the Hotel in the spring of 2015. The first train from Durango arrived in Silverton penetrating the mountainous terrain on July 4th of 1882, and as history would have it so did the Hotels founder. Once again, the railroad plays a role in the fate of the crown jewel of Silverton. In association with the railroad, the Grand Imperial Hotel would complement what they already do in providing a full immersion into an authentic 1882’s experience.
Under the guidance of the newly formed company, American Heritage Railway Hotels the Harper’s embarked on the extensive restoration project. Hotel president and eldest son, Jim Harper has been the man in charge of the year-long restoration. “Our family is committed to the Grand Imperial and the Town of Silverton,” said Harper. Upon its opening in 1883, the hotel was known as “the social center of the San Juans – we want to see the Grand, grand again.”
Early stages of the restoration focused on structural issues with added attention to the plumbing, heating and the electrical infrastructure. The next area of focus was restoring the beauty and charm of the original structure; emphasizing on room redecoration and the refurbishing of all windows, wood trim, paint, carpeting and entirely new bathrooms. Like an episode of History Channel’s American Pickers, the search for furniture authentic to the late 1880s became a passion for the Harper family.
The restoration of the lobby and enhancing the restaurant and saloon will become the final crowning accomplishment of Silverton’s famed Golden Block. With expectations high, the Harper’s are enthusiastic about the newly renovated Grand Imperial Hotel – Restaurant and Saloon.
“The Grand, as it’s known to the locals, will again possess the beauty, charm and elegance that set the standard not only for Silverton but for the Southwest”, said Harper.
Our American history is important and the preservation of it is something that the Harper family takes to heart. With sons John Harper manning the controls as the newly appointed General Manager of the D&SNGRR and Jim at the helm of the newly renovated Grand Imperial Hotel; the Harper’s vision of historic preservation as never been stronger.
“American Heritage Railways, American Heritage Railways Hotels and the Harper Family are proud to be a part of Silverton’s historic past, present and future,” said Harper. “Silverton’s a magnificent place – like no other on Earth.”