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Strater Hotel dedicating rooms to figures who helped shape Durango’s history

Names immortalized include former President Gerald Ford, plus local icons Charles Schumacher and Olga Little
Room 307 at the Strater Hotel, seen here on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, was dedicated to historical figure Olga Little. (Matt Hollinshead/Durango Herald)

The Strater Hotel has had its share of high-profile guests staying there over the years, getting acquainted with Durango and Southwest Colorado, and some even leaving a lasting mark.

That’s why the hotel started putting together dedicated rooms under former owner Rod Barker to honor those who played a role in shaping the town’s history.

“Each one of our guests has a blurb in each of the rooms with regard to why that room is dedicated the way it is,” said Strater General Manager Tori Ossola. “So, they’re learning. Maybe they’re learning for the first time.”

Former President Gerald Ford, who purchased the KIUP radio station in Durango. Will Rogers, a film actor during the 1920s and ’30s. Famed novelist Louis L’Amour and his wife, Kathy. The Kroeger family, which founded the Kroeger Hardware store.

Joseph Walker, the first U.S. Secret Service Agent killed in the line duty in 1907 while investigating multiple land fraud claims involving coal mines in Hesperus.

Local icons who have rooms include Charles Schumacher, who did woodwork at the Strater Hotel, and Olga Little, the first ever female mule-skinner at just 11 years old.

The list goes on.

Room 222 at the Strater Hotel, seen here on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, was dedicated to historical figures Louis and Kathy L’Amour. (Matt Hollinshead/Durango Herald)

“When we started talking about the room dedications, people really get intrigued,” said Roy Meiworm, a historian with the Strater.

The Strater has 88 total rooms, and about half of those are being dedicated to such historic figures.

“It will be an ongoing thing,” Ossola said. “We’re trying to do about two or three a year, depending on how long it takes us to do the research on the history of it.”

When dedicating a room, she said the hotel has its own list of people or entities where historical information must be verified.

However, descendants of a historic figure who isn’t already on that list can meet with the hotel about honoring them with a room.

“We certainly want to have that discussion. We want to learn a little bit about the history of that person or that entity that they’re wishing to dedicate,” Ossola said.

Once a name is confirmed and decided on for a dedicated room, Ossola said the hotel orders a plaque for the door where that room will be and arranges a meet-and-greet for that person’s family.

“We’re trying to make it relevant to the property, fun for our community and then, of course, it gets us a little bump in some social media traction as well,” Ossola said.

Ossola also said it’s important for the Strater to reflect accurate history, adding that the room dedications allow the hotel to highlight key historical moments in the region.

“I think there’s a whole population of travelers that really looks forward to staying in historic hotels. And they seek historic hotels out specifically because of these things,” she said, adding travelers may have some type of connection to the names associated with those rooms.


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