Mackin King Suite
Floor Room with no elevator - with spa. Most deluxe room in
the Hotel is themed for the Mackin Family.
In recognition of the years of Mackin ownership and
commitment we dedicate this room to the Mackin Family.
From Dorothy’s own words, from her book on the Imperial
"How did you ever happen to buy the Imperial Hotel?" is the
question we have been asked countless times over the years.
Our standard reply has always been: "Because we didn't know
any better." And this rueful remark also has the virtue of
From our honeymoon cottage in Manitou Springs, Wayne and I
had been ranging the state trying to find a business that
might be the right combination for us meeting three
qualifications: I) That it be interesting and exciting 2)
one that we felt capable of operating and finally, and most
important, 3) one that we could afford. In retrospect, it
seems that the Imperial qualified only in the first -we
could never suggest that it has not been interesting and
On a cold, raw, windy April day we journeyed to Cripple
Creek. We were probably "hooked" when we reached the top of
Tenderfoot Hill and caught our first breathtaking glimpse of
the Sangre de Cristo range in the distance. Far below, at
the foot of a narrow winding gravel road, rose the smoke
trails from the houses of Cripple Creek. Once in the town,
we located the hotel, perched comfortably but crookedly on a
steep hill running up from Bennett Avenue. To anyone else it
probably would have presented a dismal sight, but to us it
looked romantic, exciting, and yes, even possible.
On May 25th, 1946, we were the proud mortgaged owners of the
Imperial. We began moving in. The lobby boasted as
furnishings only an oak roll-top desk, a large oak table, a
potbellied stove, an old fashioned phone booth, and a few
odds and ends of chairs. Our apartment, now the Red Rooster,
was entirely without furnishings. The dining room, closed
since 1925, was large, cold and empty. The high ceilinged
kitchen had been crudely partitioned into three sections and
contained only a table and chairs, two tiny sinks and a
small coal range.
Room by room, we began the renovation, after setting up
housekeeping in the front apartment, often cooking on a
one-burner hot plate when the coal stove in the kitchen
proved too temperamental for our time and talents. We
scrubbed and painted, replaced and repaired, attended
auctions to add to the meager furnishings, and miraculously,
by August, had the dining room and kitchen furnished and
That first summer will forever be unforgettable, the
back-breaking labor, refinishing ancient tables and chairs (from
the even more an,.. client Antlers Hotel in Colorado
Springs) to render them suitable for a newly opened dining
room, the long hours, being in the kitchen at six to be
ready for breakfast customers at 6:30. Wayne did double and
triple duty as desk clerk, bellman, bartender and host. I
handled duties of secretary, typist, chef, bookkeeper and
part-time furniture refinisher.
in the face of all well-intentioned advice, we put crisp
white linen and silver on our tables. We disproved the
contention of the local butcher who promised us that we
would "Never get over $2.00 for a dinner in Cripple Creek."
We even disregarded George Brannen's helpful comment, "No
wonder they didn't make it. Those people charged $2.00 and
$3.00 a night for a room, and who is goin' to pay them
Wayne found a second hand back bar at a downtown pool hall
which he purchased for $50.00 without first consulting me.
We still remember the tears and fighting that ensued, and he
doesn't mind reminding me that now, stripped to its golden
splendor, it graces the Carlton Room. George Long's former
draftsman's counter was resurrected from the kitchen.
Cleaned of the many colored paints that has been spilled on
it over his artist's years, it was pressed into use as front
bar. The finishing touch was an under counter cash and coin
drawer, coin compartments carved out of wood, that served as
our only cash register for several years. How many times I
counted soggy cash, after a particularly busy night at the
bar when ice had melted and seeped down through the cracks.
We hired high school girls as waitresses and kitchen
helpers. My mother joined our staff as hostess and pastry
cook and a busy, happy summer soon sped by.
Our first winter was brightened by the advent of a road
crew, putting a new paved road down from Tenderfoot to
replace the twisting gravel one. Their rentals and meals
made the difference for us between sheer poverty and just
getting by. The New Year's night arrival of our first son,
Stephen, crowned our winter months with happiness, even
though at times we had to wait for a guest to check in and
pay before we could buy a needed bottle of baby oil. We set
his playpen up in our living room, his crib in an improvised
nursery that he shared with the laundry mangle, and happily
made plans for the coming summer.
The Imperial soon gained a reputation for good food and
hospitality. Local groups booked special parties and
banquets. The increased patronage of the 1947 summer was
most encouraging, but we faced another winter stretching
ahead, with cold and coal bills, empty rooms and empty cash
By some miraculous accident, I happened to read of the
plight of the Piper Players, a group of young actors and
actresses trying without success to find a spot to play
melodrama in Central City. Remembering our earlier dreams of
a night club or theatre in the basement, we made a phone
call to the group at their summer location in Idaho Springs.
A second fateful phone call, this one from the Chamber of
Commerce in Colorado Springs wanting us to provide dinner
and entertainment for the National Convention of Chamber of
Commerce secretaries in mid-October, provided the impetus to
get us together with the players. The first two
performances, staged in the southwest corner of the dining
room, were scheduled.
We rented, with option to purchase, the piano with stained
glass front that became a familiar sight for many years in
the Gold Bar Room Theatre and can still be seen in the back
room of the Thirst Parlor. We arranged the Chamber of
Commerce party, followed the next night by a dinner and
second performance for the Sylvanite Club of the Cripple
Creek district. At the close of these evenings, we had our
first heady taste of the compliments and kudos that are the
lifeblood of theatre. "I've never had more fun," "The dinner
was wonderful, the show terrific," and "This is the
highlight of our visit to Colorado."
We were skeptical about a Cripple Creek location, a few
weeks later we signed a contract to open our first season of
melodrama in the summer of 1948 in a yet-to-be constructed
theatre in the basement. We spent that winter pinching
pennies and planning publicity for the new venture. In June,
the Piper Players returned and together we set to work to
convert the basement from storage and apartments into a
cabaret-style theatre. We lined the walls with plywood,
boxed in plumbing and heating pipes, scrounged for tables
and chairs. We found and purchased a handsome antique hotel
sideboard to serve as back bar, and the hand-painted lamp
that still hangs over the front bar. In the lobby, the
under-the-stairway closet was opened to build a stairway
giving access to the Gold Bar Room. We papered the stairwell
with a windfall of defunct mining stocks. We pounded and
painted, scraped and sanded and opened as scheduled to a
full house on the night of July 3, 1948.
The following year over 6,000 attended the theatre. By 1950,
when Colorado Springs Civic Theatre director, Orvis Grout,
was engaged to direct for the Imperial, attendance increased
to 8,000. The season was extended to nine weeks and the Gold
Bar Room theatre began to chalk up frequent S. R. O's.
As business increased, I was happy to relinquish the reins
in the kitchen to our first chef, Francois de Priest, who
joined us in 1950 and returned each season through 1956.
Each year, increased attendance demanded expansion and