With the sale of the Hospitality House, a slice of Cripple Creek history changes course as the venerable hotel and RV Park take on new owners.
Bonnie Mackin sold the business Feb. 12 to Michael Duffy, Richard Leonard, Jr., Kay Duffy and Gail Diley, all of whom live in Denver. “They stayed in the RV park and the hotel; they kept coming back trying to make it work,” Mackin said. “As did so many people; I probably had 50 t0 75 people who wanted to buy the place but the problem was the financing.”
The four plan to open the 17-room hotel and RV Park in May and keep the business open all year.
Built in 1901 as a county hospital, the building, with its ornate sculpture and brick exterior, is an architectural tribute to the Victorian period, one of dozens that distinguish the city of Cripple Creek.
While the Hospitality House, as well as the Imperial Hotel, is a vital part of the Mackin family legacy, this last sale is, in essence, a farewell and the end of an era.
For Bonnie Mackin, widow of Stephen, and daughter-in-law of the late Dorothy and Wayne Mackin, the sale is a relief as well as a time to cherish the memories.
“Wayne and Dorothy bought the building, which had been vandalized, at auction in 1965,” she said. “They always did have great foresight in so many things, even buying the Hospitality House when it was just kind of a wreck.”
Bonnie joined the enterprise in 1967 when the Mackins brought 35,000 people every summer to Cripple Creek to see the melodrama at the Imperial Hotel.
Hired by mail as the secretary, Mackin, 21, drove to the mountains from her home in Kansas, arriving in an April blizzard. “I was scared to death, pulled into the Imperial parking lot and here came Dorothy and Fern Vetter (costume designer) to greet me,” she said. “I’d never been there, didn’t know where it was, but it sounded like the most exciting job.”
For $100 a month, plus room and board, Mackin paid the bills, did the payroll for 75 people and handled the reservations. “I checked out the five cash registers after the show started at 8:30 p.m. and then had to balance the books every night,” she said. “Six days a week.”
Those were the good ol’ days. “That was the most fun summer of my life,” she said. “We worked so hard, partied so hard.
Bonnie’s future husband was off traveling in Europe that first summer. “Steve came back. And that was it,” she said.
They were married in 1969 and opened The Crucible Shop next to the Imperial Hotel where they sold his jewelry as well as the works of other artisans.
The Mackins sold the Imperial in 1992 ending nearly 47 years of ownership of the world-renowned hotel and theatre. Gary and Winie Ledford bought the business in a foreclosure sale in September 2010.
Until the sale of the Hospitality House, and after the death of her husband, Bonnie Mackin managed the business by herself. “This will be my first summer in 47 years off,” she said. “I can’t tell you how I’m looking forward to it. I have taken care of tourists and been happy doing it, but I want to be one now.”
The new owners are dedicated to maintaining the city’s history harbored by the building. “The names are still on the doors; you can stay in the emergency room, the operating room, which still has the old tile as well as the original operating table,” she said. “You can stay in maternity or intensive care.”
For Bonnie Mackin, the sale is entrusting a tradition as well as a heritage to the new owners. “I just feel like the reason it took so long for me to sell it is that it had to be the right people,” she said. “And these are the right people. They have dreams just like Wayne and Dorothy did. The Mackins struggled for many years but they ended up doing very well.”