Royal Hotel in Yampa burns to the ground

Ben Ingersoll
Fire destroys The Royal Hotel in Yampa. Submitted by: Stephanie Van Gorden

— Yampa’s historic Royal Hotel, a more than 100-year-old building that still was serving as a residence, hotel and bar, erupted in flames late Saturday night and burned to the ground by Sunday morning.

About 20 firefighters from the Yampa and the Oak Creek fire protection districts worked through the night between Saturday and Sunday, and workers still were on scene Sunday. Yampa Fire Lt. Scott Delto said he hoped the fire would be contained by Sunday night.

Delto said the fire call came into the station at 10:58 p.m. Saturday. Initial reports indicate that the fire was caused by a malfunctioning coal stoker, but an investigation is pending.

The Royal Hotel was occupied as a full-time residence by its owner and still was functioning as a hotel. No injuries were reported as of Sunday afternoon.

Two cars parked outside the hotel were destroyed. The adjacent U.S. Post Office and nearby church suffered broken windows and water damage as a result of the blaze.

The Royal Hotel was built in 1906 by Thomas P. Lindsay and has served multiple purposes in its 109-year history.

“Years ago it was a general mercantile and had a coffee shop,” volunteer firefighter Tammy Delto said. “Probably the biggest piece of history to go with the Royal is Rufus the ghost. We were wondering what building he’s going to next.”

According to tales told by locals and chronicled in the Steamboat Pilot & Today, the hotel supposedly was haunted after Rufus died from the flu epidemic while staying there. Others claim Rufus was a gambler who was murdered after cheating in a poker game.

Dan Kelly, who has lived across Moffat Avenue from the Royal Hotel for 20 years, said his home suffered no damage but the wood shop, which is connected to his home and located nearest to the hotel, had some broken windows.

Kelly — now a disabled carpenter — said he helped rebuild many parts of the Royal Hotel, including its bar. He was woken up by his wife and son around midnight Saturday and he said the blaze was at its peak at that time. Kelly added that firefighters on scene were doing a good job securing the area and protecting the nearby buildings.

“They were on all buildings really good,” Kelly said. “They were hosing them down. The Royal was already too far gone, so they were taking care of the side properties.”

Kelly said the Royal Hotel had the only bar open year-round in Yampa. The Antlers Cafe & Bar shuts down from November until May.

Kelly and his wife also said the hotel served as a liquor store, provided showers for area hunters during hunting season and hosted occasional socials, like Saturday night billiards.

“It was a good local spot,” Kelly said. “It was a great spot for a lot of ranchers. Every day at 4:30, you’d have 10 to 15 regulars congregating.”

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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