MDR Corporation, a Denver-based company that handles asbestos abatement, began work at the Clarion Hotel in Twin Lakes Village last week, launching an effort to restore the historic structure. Crews with MDR Corporation endured brutal winter conditions as they stripped the century-and-a-half-old building of toxic material.
The Clarion Hotel project gained momentum last fall in the wake of Bud’s Sparkle Fest, an inaugural event honoring former Leadville Mayor Bud Elliot, which raised more than $13,000 for the project. Proceeds from the event went directly toward abatement of the building’s lean-to structure, an addition to the back side of the Clarion Hotel.
The Clarion Hotel is thought to be one of the oldest surviving adobe brick buildings in Lake County. Built in 1879 by mining investor T.C. Wetmore, the building offered dormitory-style rooms for those visiting Twin Lakes during the area’s mining boom and later. After years of abandonment, the Clarion Hotel was eventually purchased by the federal government in 1978 and is now in danger of collapsing.
In an effort to convert the old hotel to an interpretive site that will highlight the building’s history, Friends of Twin Lakes (FOTL) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) are partnering to renovate the building. Last year, volunteers with FOTL reinforced the structure to avoid total collapse, and now the two entities are slowly chipping away at the project’s remaining tasks.
The work performed by MDR Corporation last week focused on asbestos abatement on the lean-to addition. The work included removal of drywall in the ceiling, stripping of floor tiles and general removal of loose asbestos material. The crew stayed rent-free at the Twin Lake Inn & Saloon and took two days to complete the abatement work.
Nicholas Gonzales, an employee with MDR Corporation who worked on the Clarion Hotel project, said that last week’s winter weather in Twin Lakes created difficulties for his crew. Each morning, Gonzales said he had to thaw equipment like water tanks, water hoses and airless sprayers. Snow and wind forced the crew to move operations inside the hotel, and cold temperatures rendered tape and other materials useless.
Despite the weather, Gonzales and his crew completed the abatement work. Now, FOTL and USFS are planning next steps for the project.
According to FOTL President Kelly Sweeney, the group has high hopes for the Clarion Hotel, but FOTL must work with USFS engineers to determine the project’s scope. Some of the renovations that FOTL wants to complete, like installing a fire-resitant roof and interpretive signs, will require approval from USFS and the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), which administers the national historic preservation program throughout Colorado.
But there are some project tasks that do not require approval from SHPO, only USFS. This summer, Sweeney said FOTL hopes to stabilize the Clarion Hotel’s porch, replace the structure’s broken sidewalk with gravel and improve drainage away from the building’s foundation. FOTL also hopes for approval to remove the hotel’s boarded-up windows and place period furniture on the first floor. Construction and code issues on the second floor will likely bar public access beyond the first floor.
Sweeney added that FOTL would like the renewed Clarion Hotel to serve as a memorial for Indigenous people who once lived in the area. Interpretive signs and additional information about Indigenous use of the land near Twin Lakes is slated for display at the hotel.
In addition to funds raised through Bud’s Sparkle Fest, FOTL will use $5,000 from the group’s heritage fund and an anonymous $20,000 donation to help fund the project. Sweeney added that FOTL will apply for more grants later this year, and USFS might also qualify for additional funding for the project.
“In place of a decaying boarded up structure, the Clarion Hotel should be a welcoming example of historic adobe brick architecture, showing where miners and visitors stayed during Twin Lakes’ heyday,” Sweeney said.