They say history repeats itself, but I’ve finally reached that wise old age to know that isn’t entirely true – at least not always. Just because you have daddy issues doesn’t mean you can’t find a man to trust and fall in love with. Just because you had a bad experience at a Zagat-rated restaurant, doesn’t mean that will remain a nagging constant on your next visit.
One place we hope history will remain and repeat itself – the iconic Hotel Jerome in Aspen and therein lies that angst amidst locals and travelers alike at the first mention of the hotel’s multi-area facelift.
Currently in the midst of their premier renovation, Hotel Jerome, part of Auberge Resorts, recognizes the distinct authenticity the hotel has become known for worldwide, and they have made a point to keep those particular fan-favorites in tact. And it’s not just a historic hotel because a gaggle of people claim it to be so, it was actually added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. A step inside their grand lobby is enough proof that history has repeated itself time and time again within those four walls.
A company statement released a few months prior to the three-story hotel shutting down for this five-month renovation claimed it planned to, “transform guest rooms, revitalize [the] restaurant, public spaces and add [a] new spa while preserving historic character of Aspen’s fashionable landmark.”
Phew. Everyone can relax now.
I was lucky enough to visit this “fashionable landmark” just a few weeks before they shutdown (August 1st) and saw its Rocky Mountain Character firsthand. Many Aspen-frequenters and locals are fearful of how the transition will look and feel once all is said and done but the ridiculously friendly on-site staff as well as the Auberge corporate offices have assured everyone that by the time their Grand Re-Opening rolls around, people will be pleasantly surprised at the minimal updates while staying true to the charm that makes the hotel so unique. Hotel Jerome is set to reopen in early December just in time for ski season as one the premiere ski destinations in the country.
Rest assured travelers – Hotel Jerome will not end up like a botched and unrecognizable specimen, like say…Heidi Montag.
Though the hotel’s surgery is minor in comparison to other industry remodels, the hotel brought in some of the best to oversee the procedure. Famed interior designer Todd-Avery Lenahan of TAL-Studios, Las Vegas is teaming up with the Aspen-based architecture firm Rowland + Broughton, who is overseeing the structural improvements. In particular, the team was chosen in part because of architect Sarah Broughton, who specializes in historic preservation. Broughton sourced archival plans and photos from Aspen’s Historic Preservation Commission and conducted more than 200 hours of research to ensure historical accuracy prior to starting the project.
“Hotel Jerome is a distinctive American icon and innovator, so we enlisted top design talent to continue its evolution and status as Aspen’s fashionable destination,” said Eric Calderon, Principal and Chief Operating Officer, Auberge Resorts. “This renovation will honor the historic integrity of the Jerome, while adding layers of craft, detail and luxury that will enhance the guest experience.”
One of my own personal fears of this transformation was J-Bar, which quickly became my favorite spot to sip Chandon in all of Aspen (also because of their amazing bar staff), but only a “light touch will be used on the famed J-Bar, which will retain its treasured Chippendale chinoiserie bar. Rugged leather furniture will ensure the space retains its familiar rough-and-tumble character,” according to the release from Auberge. Want to see a hotel with some history? Just look at that Chippendale chinoiserie bar and its original wood. The cash register behind the bar has been there since the day it opened in 1889 and EVERY SINGLE bartender who has ever slung a drink there has signed or engraved their name. That’s the kind of history you can’t repeat and you certainly can’t replace.
The 93-room hotel already boasts some of the biggest, if not the biggest, hotel rooms of any of the area hotels. While keeping their size, the “guest rooms will receive rich upgrades, from multi-stepped moldings, enhanced lighting and historically inspired furnishings to updated bathrooms and modern-day luxuries. Clever touches, such as a minibar designed as a leather campaign chest, will sit below a leather writing table, and contemporary artwork commissioned for the hotel by regional artists will hang alongside archival pieces reproduced from Aspen Historical Society collections,” the release said.
Probably the best part of this facelift will be the brand new Auberge Spa. How this glorious property has lasted over a century without a spa is one of those questions that linger in my mind (like, did OJ Simpson really do it?).
The massive design transformation will help usher in the 19th century landmark to the 21st century in hopes of “reemerging as a hub for Aspen’s elite while retaining its historic essence and identity as ‘The Heart of Aspen.”
On December 12, 2012 we’ll see firsthand how the transition took place and see if it is fact the same Hotel Jerome we’ve all come to know and love over the last 100 years. Hopefully I’ll have an invitation waiting for me so I can scope it out for myself and report back. Stay tuned.
Jayme Lamm is a freelance writer and marketing consultant based in Houston focusing on travel writing and is in a full-court press writing her hugely opinionated sports column, The Blonde Side.