On the corner of College Avenue and Olive Street sits the 43-room Armstrong Hotel, a 1923 Landmark Hotel in the heart of Old Town Fort Collins, Colorado, one hour north of Denver. This family-owned boutique hotel re-opened in 2004 and continues as charming and quaint option to brand hotels.
The Armstrong Hotel is located on College Avenue, an bustling hub of activity part of the revitalization of Old Town Fort Collins, Colorado. Its storefront bookends with the neighboring coffee shop, Mugs Coffee Shop, and other shops, which makes it hard to find until you spot the vintage “Armstrong Hotel” sign.
Enter the front door and the reception desk is right there, with a lounging sofa positioned in front of the oversized, old-fashioned picture window.. We were greeted immediately by a friendly staff, but since this is a boutique hotel with skeleton staff, I did notice that others trying to check in were greeted by a sign “be back shortly.” The wait was never long.
The historic lobby is directly behind and to the left of the reception desk, showcasing the original terrazzo floor and pressed tin ceiling. The winding staircase with its ornate iron railing leads to the 2nd and 3rd floors, or you can opt for the slow (ancient) elevator.
Each of the 43 rooms and suites are uniquely designed in an artful blend of 20s Art Deco and modern that is surprisingly welcoming and comfortable. The standard room is small, but yet the workstation tucked into the corner offers plenty of room to set up your laptop and get some work done. I only spent one night so didn’t have time to check the complimentary wireless Internet. My fellow travelers reported that the WiFi worked well.
Although there was air condition, my room seemed a bit stuffy, but turning on the ceiling fan placed over the bed resolved that issue. The adjoining bathroom was small, but again more than adequate with its bath and shower.
The surprise? The location on the busy College Street in a college town on a Friday night had me concerned. Would the noise and traffic from this college town keep me up? Not so. The moment I stretched out and sank into the super-comfortable queen size bed with its pillow-top mattress, 100% cotton sheets, and down comforters and pillows, I slept like a baby.
Dining & Nightlife
A popular local jazz bar is located in the basement of the Armstrong Hotel. A nod to the speak-easy era, Ace Gillett’s opens daily at 4 pm an underground shadowy enclave with nearly 100 years of history. Celebrating that history is a signature drink menu of martinis, wine and local brews in two cozy rooms featuring live jazz music 4 nights a week. By midnight though, the crowd had thinned from the young local professionals to the baby boomers.
Their food menu is an interesting combination of tapas, from Spanish meatballs to Greek Salads to Park tenderloin. Although I didn’t dine there, I did stop by about 10:00 pm on a Friday night and the place was hopping, an all-age mix of locals and travelers.
When the Mantz family opened the original Armstrong, it debuted as the last of a dozen downtown hotels and the only one still open today. At the time it was the tallest building, and its simple, symmetrical, and clean design reflected the functional, rather than stylish, architecture of the early 20s. As the property changed hands, it also changed names over the years being called Empire Hotel, Mountain Empire Hotel, but was always a family-run property. During the 70s, downtown Fort Collins declined and the hotel did too, slipping into shambles, offering long-term, shabby rooms, and garnering a less than respectable reputation.
Even in the mid-90s during the revitalization of Old Town, the Armstrong remained as a eyesore. In 2000, the Armstrong closed its door, remaining vacant until 2002. In 2002, the Levinger family purchased the building, beginning renovations the following year, and re-opening in 2004.
The Levingers preserved the original storefronts, repaired crumbling walls and ceilings, restored wood windows and floors, and reproducing the hall doors and transoms. They also recreated the 1940s-era neon sign from historic photographs. The restoration also included extensive updates to bring the mechanical and electrical system to current code. Today, the Armstrong Hotel is a beautiful nod to the history of Fort Collins.
The Armstrong Hotel is a unique historic hotel in Old Town Fort Collins, fun and hip, and the rooms are comfortable and clean. With its affordable room rates, starting at $129 weekdays and $149 weekends), I look forward to my next Colorado escape.
Check prices online at Hotels.com
Accommodations courtesy of the Armstrong Hotel.
Photos © Diana Rowe