The Strater Hotel – Durango’s Iconic Landmark

Strater Diamond Belle
The history of the Strater Hotel and Durango are totally intertwined. From its inception, the Strater Hotel became a beautiful landmark in downtown Durango destined to become a member of Historic Hotels of America. Just as the Old West was starting to fade into history, and Durango was evolving into a modern town, a pharmacist from Cleveland named Henry Strater arrived who envisioned a grand hotel in the town’s heart. Fortunately he had family members who could help to underwrite his extravagant vision for a grand hotel (almost $2 million in today’s currency). He built his opulent, four-story hotel in what could be described as grand American Victorian architectural style.
Strater Nighttime
The Strater Hotel’s unique Victorian architectural style perhaps is best described as “eclectic”. At the time of its design in the 1880s, architects in Europe and America were combining various historical styles to achieve something uniquely beautiful. The mission was clear for a building like The Statler Hotel that undoubtedly would become an icon in downtown Durango. The Strater featured crystal chandeliers, ornate woodworking and its exterior construction was ornamental red sandstone with white stone cornices. Much later in the story, the hotel would have one of the world’s largest collections of the period’s distinctive walnut furniture.
Strater Hotel

The Strater Hotel that finally opened in 1887 was leased to H.L. Rice with Strater operating a pharmacy at the corner of the hotel. Very upset about his rent, Strater soon parted ways with Rice and opened a rival hotel nearby called the Columbian Hotel. The Panic of 1893 plunged both hotels in bankruptcy. The Strater wound up in the hands of Hattie Mashburn and Charles E. Stilwell who invested heavily in its future. These two remained in control of the Hotel until 1926 when Earl A. Barker, Sr., acquired it. Barker and his family continued to operate The Strater Hotel for the remainder of the century.

The Barkers were determined to increase the Hotel’s Victorian charm. They purchased authentic period furniture from many sources and created the hotel’s collection of American Victorian-era walnut furniture which grew into the largest of its kind in the world. In addition to guests that included Will Rodgers, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy and President Gerald Ford, periodically author Louis L’Amour lived at the hotel and wrote novels that reflected its inspiration. In 1983, Roderick E. Barker, Earl’s son, assumed control of the Hotel and hired outstanding designers and craftsmen to enhance the hotel’s various iconic venues such as the Mahogany Grille Restaurant.

Strater Hotel Room
The Statler deservedly boasts of being a living history museum. Each one of the 88 uniquely designed guest rooms combines fine woodwork, Victorian furniture and unique stories. The hotel’s renovation and antique collection have continued to grow under the guidance of the Barker family. Besides fine woodwork and beautiful hand-printed Bradbury and Bradbury wallpaper, window showcases in public areas brim with antique collectibles. Even public restrooms are granite and marble lined. Throughout the year, the Strater hosts events like the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering that amplify its reputation.