Monday, June 1, 2009

A Brief History of the Stained-Glass Ceiling

One of the things people always remember about the Hotel Boulderado is the ceiling in the lobby -- a stained-glass canopy of glitter and light that has become a defining feature of the Boulderado. The ceiling itself has a fascinating history that few of our guests ever hear. It's time to share that history.

When the Hotel Boulderado first opened in 1909, a colorful and ornate stained-glass ceiling hovered over the lobby and Mezzanine. The glass was from Italy and was high-quality enough to be used in European cathedrals. Few pictures captured the true beauty of the original ceiling, as most of them are in black and white. A rare color photo, seen below, from the Howard family collection (c.1960) shows off the patterns and hues of the ceiling.

In 1959, a late-season snowstorm came to Boulder. At the time, only a skylight separated the canopy ceiling from the elements. When the skylight gave way under the heavy, wet snow, the ceiling was the next stop, and two panels broke under the weight. It wasn't until September of 1960 that the rest of the cathedral glass was removed and taken down to the basement. The ceiling remained bare for some months until management installed red, white, and blue Plexiglas panels. Ed Howard, who owned and operated the Boulderado in the 1960s, struggled to find someone who would want the original panels from the ceiling. Americans were not as concerned with historical preservation as they would be in future decades, and no local organization responded to Howard's pleas. The feeling at the time was that the ceiling was old-fashioned and outdated, and the Plexiglas was installed to bring some modernity to the hotel. Howard eventually had to move the ceiling panels to the local dump.

In the late 1970s, William Brantmeyer took over management of the Boulderado, and vowed to replace "that awful Plexiglas." He dreamed of restoring the ceiling to its original stained-glass and enlisted the help of local artisan Maria Garcia. Garcia and her husband worked out of a hotel room (#202, now converted into the Driftwood Room) for several months painstakingly designing, cutting, and installing the glass. The photos below document Garcia's work and the transition from the Plexiglas to the ceiling we recognize today. (Photos courtesy of Garcia)

The finished ceiling today is one of the many prides of the Boulderado. Many guests who stay here are compelled to photograph it. Events taking place on the Mezzanine are bathed in the amber golden glow, and more than one wedding album features the ceiling in the backgrounds of shots of brides, grooms, and families. The stained-glass canopy ceiling has been a part of the Boulderado's history since its opening and will continue to be so in the coming years.

A Life Exposed Photography