One of Ouray’s crown jewels has been closed to the public for years. The new owners of the 1886 hotel intend to change that.
Three days into a cross-country trip, Tara Vancil needed a roof over her head. And not the one on the truck in which she and her husband Eliot were camping. The couple was driving from their home in Texas to Oregon earlier this summer to pick up a camp trailer. It had been raining, and Tara was tired of the cramped conditions and wanted a shower.
On a June afternoon, they stopped and snagged a hotel room in Ouray, a place they were familiar with from previous camping trips and family vacations. The next morning, while walking around Main Street, Eliot spotted a for sale sign in the window of the Beaumont Hotel. The serial entrepreneur and real estate investor texted a picture of the sign to Tommy Liebhart, his assistant who handles his real estate deals.
“Yo, T, how much is this?”
And that’s how, in a matter of a few weeks, the Vancils became the latest owners of one of the most revered, historic hotels in Colorado. The property sold for $6.3 million, according to Beckie Pendergrass, supervising broker with Keller Williams Realty.
The deal closed quickly, especially considering how long the Beaumont was for sale. The hotel was on the market for at least two years. It initially went under contract in the spring of 2022 with a different prospective buyer, but that deal fell through.
They’ve only owned the Beaumont for two weeks, but Eliot and Tara, both 51, already have a sense of how special the 137-year-old “Flagship of the San Juans” is — how its early fortunes rose and fell with the mines above Ouray, how it was neglected and fell into disrepair for decades in the mid- and late-20th century, during a time when previous owner Wayland Phillips fought with the city over parking and the roof caved in, and the hotel declined in disrepair.
Dan and Mary King rescued the hotel in the late 1990s and poured millions of dollars into a restoration and renovation. It’s hosted everyone from U.S. presidents – Theodore Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover – to world leaders like King Leopold II of Belgium, to celebrities like Oprah Winfrey.
The most recent owners, Chad and Jennifer Leaver, have maintained the Beaumont’s stately appearance since purchasing it in 2010. But for many years, the 13-room hotel has been shuttered to the public and was closed to locals. The grand ballroom, the lounge, the dining room, the courtyard — they’ve all been closed, even to guests, unless they’re part of a private party that has booked an event. Only guests with a key can even enter the hotel to admire the ornate wallpaper and the grand staircase.
The Vancils want to change that. They say it will be a gradual process, and they ask for the community’s patience as they chart a new course for the Beaumont. But they’ve heard the stories of the popular holiday brunches and dinners that were open to the public, of joint Ridgway-Ouray school proms in the ballroom. They’d like to bring back those sorts of events.
“I don’t like the fact that this room is empty right now,” Eliot said in an interview last week, sitting in the dark of the Beaumont’s lounge, which used to be Bulow’s Restaurant years ago. “I don’t like the fact that the courtyard’s empty. I don’t like the fact that, you know, we come to the front door and it’s locked during business hours. We definitely want to open it back up to the community in time.”
Eliot has been self-employed most of his adult life. He founded an information technology company nearly 25 years ago and sold it earlier this year. That company spun off a telecommunications company he sold two years ago. He currently owns Fuel Logic, a fuel brokerage that provides services across the country. Tara, meanwhile, is a real estate agent and former elementary school teacher.
The couple, who met at Texas Tech University and live in the Dallas suburb of Midlothian, has also invested in a lot of real estate — office buildings, single-family homes and shortterm rentals.
“All of my businesses, the reason they’re successful is because I’m passionate about them. They excite me.” Eliot said.
Real estate has never fit that bill, though, because “it’s hard to get excited about a duplex,” Eliot said. For him, however, the Beaumont is different because of its history and stature in the community, because he loves the mountains and small towns, because he cherishes memories of working alongside his dad restoring old Victorian homes.
The Vancils will continue to live in Texas but have purchased a home in Ouray and say they intend to visit often. Eliot’s sister and brother-in-law, Esther and Clint Friesen, will move from Estes Park and run the day-today operations of the Beaumont.
That role appears to fit them well, since Clint owns a construction company and Esther has spent much of her career in hospitality management. She recently sold a small spa in Estes and previously managed the food services program in the Estes Park School District for six years. The couple also helped run guest ranches in Estes Park and Texas.
If there’s anything the Vancils have learned in two weeks of ownership, it’s how much the Beaumont means to the local community. And Eliot says he takes that seriously.
“Everybody has a story. Everybody’s got an opinion. The responsibility to get this right is important to us,” he said.
Eliot said he doesn’t plan to immediately shake things up with business operations. He wants to learn why previous owners of the Beaumont managed it their way. And when he discusses his vision and plans, he cites one of his favorite concepts promoted in James Collins’ business leadership book, “Great by Choice.”
It encourages the concept of tackling low-cost, low-risk projects to figure out what will work before investing resources in a bigger, riskier bet.
“I think I’m big on firing bullets before cannonballs,” Eliot said. “It’s all about, you need to get on target with bullets before you fire a cannonball. If you fire a cannonball and you miss, it’s a big miss. It hurts and you use a lot of resources to do that. And so you get on target with bullets first. Once you’re reliably on that target, load and fire the cannonball.”
The Vancils and Friesens say their first focus will be on creating the best experience possible for guests. From there, they want to branch out to reopen the hotel to the community. They plan to reintroduce alcohol and food service. They envision perhaps hosting a Valentine’s Day dinner and live music in the ballroom. They want to hear about other events that were held in the past or events the Beaumont could host in the future.
“I really do want to bring it back to the glory days,” Eliot said.
Editor’s note: This story has been edited to correct the spelling of Wayland Phillips’ name.