Tales from the Tread: Harbor Hotel brings back memories

Candice Bannister For Steamboat Today

Every “Throwback Thursday,” I post a photo on the Tread of Pioneers Museum’s Facebook page and website of interesting and unique artifacts from the museum’s collection with a brief history of the item. I also post it on the “Routt County Memories” Facebook page so that more than 1,800 history lovers in that group can also see the artifacts and history, make comments and reminisce. It’s a great way to bring the museum exhibits and artifacts out to the community via social media.

On Sept. 7, I posted the accompanying photo of a paper placemat from the Harbor Hotel. The Harbor Hotel stood proudly at the corner of Seventh and Lincoln in Steamboat Springs from 1939 until it was demolished in 2007 for construction of the Howelsen Place mixed-use building. The Harbor was considered “the place to stay” in Steamboat Springs and was built after the famous Cabin Hotel burned down in 1939.

The placemat is marked: “Hotel Harbor; nine miles from Continental Divide, Steamboat Springs, Colorado; Ralph Zuschlag, owner and manager; Warm Spring Swimming, Fishing, hunting, riding, hiking, skiing on famed Howelsen Hill, site of National Ski meets 1000 miles of mountain trails.” What I did not know when I posted this treasure of Steamboat’s past was how many memories would flood the Routt County Memories Facebook page posting about the beloved Harbor Hotel and the days gone by where the hotel was revered as a community icon. Here’s a sampling of those comments:

Tom Wither wrote, “Sally, remember all the special occasion dinners we had there with Aunt Dorothy? Very special memories! You know that Ralph’s grandson lives in Steamboat area! I worked for Ralph and his wife at the Harbor Hotel way back in late ’50’s & early ’60’s as a bus boy, waiter, and bell hop! My folks were the 1st couple to have their wedding dinner at the newly opened Harbor Hotel on July 6, 1940!”

Jane Romberg remembers, “We came to Steamboat in 1966 – The Harbor was THE place to eat for special occasions! Also the coffee shop was open at night for homemade pie and coffee. All community dinners were held in the Banquet Room!”

Other local residents remembered:

“Helped serve at Dorothy’s (Wither) Fashion Shows!!!!”

“MY FAVORITE was the owner Paul Hunt, who was real tall and lanky and rode a very tall Bay Horse in the Parade and every Thur. night on the Routt Riders Trail Club ride!”

“Many fond memories of the Harbor. Easter dinner with the Scott family after church. Their pies were the best. My favorite memory is spending nights with Christie Appel in the apartment she lived in with her mom downstairs there. We had some great times…”

“Worked there as a waitress during the summer of 1970. Rick Bettger, who worked the main desk, got me the job. Tough job with all the tour buses that stopped on a continual basis.”

“My parents met there when Mom was a waitress and Dad was the milkman, then I had my first job there as a dishwasher in 1970.”

“I got my very 1st job there in ’70 working as a busboy in the restaurant for $1.65 per hour!”

“Remember Snowball working for the Harbor Hotel also shoveling/ plowing their sidewalk? He operated a John Deere lawn tractor and kept their walks ice free which is no easy feat back in those classic ’70s winters.”

“I was a waitress at the Harbor during high school for two years after quitting the Skee Inn. The Harbor paid 10 cents more an hour and the tips were much better. It was run by Angie Hunt and her son Jack. Angie was a gem to work for. I also worked with three amazing women: June Wright (later Brunner) Virginia Spangler, both great waitresses, and Birdie, who was 75 years old and would come in at 3 am to make the pies and rolls. My favorite was her cherry cream pie. Doc Utterback came in every morning. We kept a big bottle of alfalfa pills under the counter for him and he had six a day with his coffee. On Sundays he would bring his mother for lunch after church, and she always wore white gloves and pearls. Snowball would come in for coffee after shoveling snow, and we never charged him. Good memories of the Harbor.”

“I too quit the Ski Inn Café to work at the Harbor Hotel for 10 cents more an hour, making my wage $1.10 per hour in 1971. It also was a much more dignified job. Yes, and Snowball would come in.”

Christine McKelvie shared: “My favorite Harbor memory is from 1974-76 when I covered Steamboat Springs and South Routt news for the Hayden Valley Press. Every Monday night I would take my rolls of undeveloped film and my typewritten articles in an envelope to the Harbor front desk, where it would be picked up by the Continental Trailways bus driver sometime in the wee hours of the morning and delivered to Craig. Someone from the Craig Daily Press would then pick it up so the film could be processed, the photos printed and the articles typeset. Needless to say, we did not have digital photography or the internet or even fax machines in those days, so the news and photos had to go through several processes before a newspaper could be printed.”

As more modern businesses move in and some of our town’s early buildings make way for the new, let us remember the irreplaceable personal memories and experiences that are held in the bricks and mortar of our community.

Candice Bannister is executive director of the Tread of Pioneers Museum —special thanks to all who contributed memories for this column.

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