Grand Lake’s Smith Eslick Cottage gets national recognition
September 29, 2016
Grand Lake has long been in the shadow of Estes Park when the history of auto tourism in the Rocky Mountain Region is told. The role of the Stanley Brothers and the Stanley Hotel, as well as the story of Enos Mills and his pioneering role in creating Rock Mountain National Park, dedicated in 1915, have dominated historical interest.
The addition of the Smith Eslick Cottage Court in Grand Lake to the National Register of Historic Places, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s register of historic sites important to the history and culture of the United States, is a major step forward in recognizing the historical importance of Grand Lake in the story of America’s growing interest in the Rocky Mountain West and the importance of the automobile in the development of western tourism in the early 20th century.
The Cottage Court was built in about 1915 (it is almost impossible to determine the exact date) by the Smith and Eslick families and may well be the earliest example of an auto court anywhere in the United States.
It is a very simple, rustic, collection of several adjoining small cabins with carports. While it is quite primitive by today’s standards, it was revolutionary in its time and remains a unique reminder of the importance of the automobile in opening up the Rocky Mountain region to visitors from around the nation and the world. Prior to automobility, tourism in the region was generally restricted to the very wealthy. With the advent of the automobile and new roads, average Americans could take to the road and expand their view of their country, especially the American West.
But they needed someplace to stay and the Cottage Court in Grand Lake is a unique example of the earliest attempts to serve the automobile tourist.
Recognizing its historical importance, the Cottage Court was acquired by the Grand Lake Area Historical Society in 2009.
The Grand Lake Area Historical Society is in the process of raising funds to stabilize and restore the Cottage Court to its 1930’s appearance. When restored, it will take its place along with the Historical Society’s other historic property, the Kauffman House, as an important historical landmark of America’s great love affair with the Rocky Mountain West.
Contributions for the restoration of the Cottage Court should be sent to the Grand Lake Area Historical Society, PO Box 656, Grand Lake, CO 80447