John Zimmerman and his brother, Michael, arrived in the Poudre Canyon around 1881. When the Zimmermans arrived, they were searching for gold. It would take awhile, but in 1888 they opened their Elkhorn Mine, north of milepost 89 on Colorado Highway 14.
The Zimmerman brothers had a problem common to all the miners in the area–low-grade ore and expensive transportation. The brothers decided to build a stamp mill, a machine that breaks the ore up by pounding it with heavy steel plates called stamps. The gold was recovered by washing the slurry over a mercury-coated copper plate. The mill was in operation in 1890 but an 1891 flood destroyed it, leaving just the chimney. It never reopened and John Zimmerman moved on, eventually opening the Keystone Hotel.
John Zimmerman’s Keystone Hotel, at what is now milepost 84.5, was the premier resort in the canyon for decades. The hotel was started in the mid-1890s and was built with bricks made on site. The Fort Collins Courier announced its completion on July 22, 1897, calling the setting “one of the most picturesque locations imaginable . . . surrounded by some of the wildest and grandest of mountain views in the world.” The building itself was huge for the canyon, three-stories, 35 x 66 feet, with 16 bedrooms, a billiard hall, a barbershop, and other amenities. The covered front porch, shown in the first image, soon became the gathering place for guests.
The resort was an immediate success. Within one month of opening the resort, Zimmerman was running a twice-a-week stage from Fort Collins to the Keystone Hotel. By the summer of 1899 the stage ran daily, carrying passengers to the hotel and mail to the Home, Colorado, post office, now located at the resort. It took almost 12 hours to make the trip from Fort Collins to the Keystone and cost $3.
John Zimmerman’s son, Casper, supervised construction of this bridge across the Poudre River. It was completed circa 1890, allowing the Zimmermans to start construction on the future resort. Sturdier structures would take its place but certainly this was the most charming. Below is a Stanley Steamer on the bridge circa 1910.
I know very little about antique cars. Fortunately, the internet allows me to contact auto experts who are always willing to share their knowledge. Pat Farrell, a Stanley Steamer expert, sent this information on the automobile in the photograph.
“Using the same engine that set the land speed record at 127 MPH in 1906, this is a 1909 Stanley Model Z, nine passenger, 30 HP Mountain Wagon. It was developed in 1908 for hauling passengers from Colorado Springs and Fort Collins to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. Because of its hill climbing ability, several transportation companies in the Rocky Mountain area quickly came into being while using the new Model Z Stanley Mountain Wagon. By 1912, the Stanley Mountain Wagon had become a 12 passenger Mountain.Wagon. The last year for the Mountain Wagon production was 1917.”
One of the interesting stories of the Keystone Hotel concerns the mountain lion shown below.
According to the March 20, 1907, edition of the Fort Collins Courier, this huge mountain lion had killed one of John Zimmerman’s colts. Setting a spring trap, Zimmerman found the beast with one foot secure in its jaws. After numerous attempts, he was able to drag the animal into a position where his daughter, Eda, could take this picture. Some skeptics believe the lion was killed and mounted before the photograph was taken.
After the Keystone Resort finally closed despite Agnes Zimmerman’s desperate attempts to keep it going, the land was acquired by the Colorado Department of Game and Fish, now the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The purchase included all of the resort buildings along with John Zimmerman’s reservoir and fish ponds. The hotel was razed in the summer of 1946.
Today, a fish-rearing operation provides stock for several Colorado waterways. Visitors are welcome at the ponds (Milepost 83.8)—without fishing poles, of course, and without the family dog. Hatchlings are delivered to the ponds to be fed a carefully controlled diet until fully grown and ready for transport to a lake or river—where fishing poles are welcome.
Next week, watch for a very old and interesting photograph of a landmark Fort Collins’ building and a possible tie to a silent film icon.