The Vast and Colorful History of the Cripple Creek Hospitality House

Property Changes from a Hospital to a Hotel

Trevor Phipps

When most visitors think about staying Cripple Creek, they usually book a room at a local casino and try their hand at Lady Luck, even though some family members would rather tour a few prime historic sites.

Fret not, non-gamers. The city sports a couple of independently owned hotels that offer a combination of history and charm and showcase the district’s heyday years.

The Cripple Creek Hospitality House and Hotel St. Nicholas pride themselves as being independently owned hotels that occupy historic buildings. And, each of these properties used to be hospitals back in the gold boom era of the Cripple Creek Mining District.

The Cripple Creek Hospitality House, located near the CC/V high school, is a historic gem that is often overlooked.

The Cripple Creek Hospitality House now sports 16 hotel rooms and several RV sites open during the summer to make it a top-class family friendly destination. People who wish to visit Cripple Creek overnight have the option of staying a few minutes away from the downtown strip where they can have quiet nights in a historic setting.

In 2010, owner Rick Leonard and his family first discovered the building which was owned by the Mackin family at the time. Then in 2014, Leonard, Gail Diley, and Michael and Kay Duffy decided to purchase the building.

The business has been family owned and operated ever since, and later this year they will be celebrating their 10th summer season. “When we first walked into the building, we knew we had stumbled on to something truly unique,” Leonard said. “We got that feeling of being taken back in time, over a hundred years in just an instant.”

The History of the Former Teller County Hospital

In 2015, local historian Jan MacKell Collins prepared a document describing the vast history of the property. According to Mackell’s document, the Cripple Creek area quickly needed doctors and medical facilities after the mining district was formed in 1891.

Many people came to the area to mine, but the underground mining work back then was very dangerous. According to MacKell, Cripple Creek’s first mayor was physician John Whiting who was inundated with patients during the first years of the gold boom. These patients often suffered from injuries that were compared to those of people who fought in war.

In 1894, the city’s first hospital called the St. Nicholas Hospital was opened by the Catholic Diocese in Denver. Two years later, Whiting along with another local doctor opened of the Pikes Peak Hospital on the east side of the city.

At that time, there were 30 doctors doing business in Cripple Creek. In 1898, the St. Nicholas Hospital opened up its new four story building at the corner of Eaton and Third Streets, but the Catholic nuns operating the hospital quickly became overworked and understaffed as they became swamped with patients.

But then as MacKell describes in her piece, the State Board of Charities and Corrections approved plans for a new county owned hospital in 1901. The Durango Democrat newspaper called the new project the “Teller County Poorhouse and Hospital.”

“The new Teller County Hospital aspired to be bigger and better than St. Nicholas Hospital,” MacKell reported. “Each of the two stories spanned 4,000 square feet with a maze of wards, spacious verandas, several private rooms, offices, and even bathrooms. The roomy halls were accompanied by winding staircases wide enough to accommodate gurneys and stretchers.”

The final cost for the project was said to be $20,000, and even though a cornerstone on the building says it was built in 1901, the hospital did not officially open until May 12, 1902. As soon as the hospital opened it had 15 patients who were all under the care of Dr. Magruder.

According to the building’ current owner, the hospital also worked as a “poor house” where indigent people lived in a ward and worked in the building. The men’s and women’s wards now still exist as hotel rooms.

In 1910, the hospital had around 30 patients, and by the end of the year it had taken nearly 100 patients. But as the town’s population seem to vanish when the mines started producing less gold, the hospital transferred 11 residents in 1930 and closed.

The hospital opened again in 1933 and it was primarily used as a nursing home throughout the 1940s. “In July of 1960, newspapers reported that the Teller County Nursing Home was slated to be used for ‘emergency hospitalization,’” MacKell reported. “Unfortunately, the effort was a failure. The hospital closed for good and its residents were once again moved to St. Nicholas. For the next three years, the hospital sat empty and was at the mercy of vandals who stole most of the antique furnishings.”

The Mackin Family Turns the Old Hospital into a Hotel

In 1963, Dorothy and Wayne Mackin purchased the hospital and began restoring it. The Mackins also were known as the family that created and produced the  historic melodrama shows at the former Imperial Hotel, which helped put  Cripple Creek on the map as a rare tourist gem in the 1960s and 1970s. Steve and Bonnie Mackin (the son and daugher-in-law of Wayne and Dorothy Mackin), in fact, played an instrumental role in continuing this melodrama tradition during the early days of the Butte Theater.

The Mackins decorated the Hospitality House building in Victorian-era style and lined the walls with preserved historic artifacts. This same historic spirit prevails today.

Ever since the property was purchased by Leonard and his family, they have worked to keep the historic décor and they have added artifacts to the walls. “The Cripple Creek Hospitality House is a family friendly destination that appeals to a wide range of guests,” Leonard said. “Book a relaxing and therapeutic massage with our onsite massage therapist. Reserve a room in the historic hotel. Stay in the full-service RV Campground. Host a family reunion or themed birthday party and reserve the entire hotel for your special gathering. Grab a bite to eat at Doc’s, an on-site food trailer popular with locals and serving ‘prescribed comfort food.’”