Elegantly appointed La Court Hotel a destination for the rich and famous
Part One of a two-part series on the history of the opulent La Court Hotel.
Once upon a time, Grand Junction had a hotel that was as elegant as the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs.
It was La Court Hotel, and it sat grandly at the corner of Second and Main streets, convenient to the train depot through which flowed most of the area’s travelers in the early 20th century.
Long before visitors began to arrive by limousine from the airport, the hotel’s horse-drawn vehicle, called a “boos” by the driver, Arie “Skip” Schippers, met each of the 12 daily passenger trains.
The La Court saga began in 1904, when N. I. Nearing was close to completing construction of the hotel. A description in The Daily Sentinel read: “That the La Court will have no equal as a delightfully furnished European hotel in western Colorado is unquestionable.”
The furniture was made of solid mahogany, curly birch and quarter-sawed oak for the guest rooms. The floors were covered with Bokhara and Persian rugs. The lobby was furnished with mission-style furniture.
At first Nearing said he had no intention of having a dining room at the hotel. However, one was added shortly after the hotel was completed.
When William Buthorn became the owner in 1907, the La Court was in the budding stage of what he would turn into a luxury hotel. It would become one of the most prestigious hotels on the Western Slope.
Buthorn’s enjoyment of the unusual was reflected in the hotel. The party room, which later became the Green Room, was first decorated in an Indian theme, featuring leather fringe on the draperies. Deer heads lined the walls, each point decorated with a small electric light.
A “medieval castle” was located on the north wall in the lobby. Apparently Buthorn had seen this in a magazine, obtained the plans and had it duplicated in the La Court lobby. A model of a fancy sailing ship, named La Court, sat proudly on the castle wall.
The writing room, located behind the lobby, had a chandelier fashioned from an iron wheel from a mowing machine and six lights. Each light bulb was topped with a Tiffany glass shade. Also in the writing room was a huge, black-rock fireplace with a massive buffalo head that had belonged to Buffalo Bill. It was mounted high on the rock chimney.
Years later, when the La Court was demolished, the fireplace was saved and used by the owners of the Ivanhoe Lounge at the corner of Second Street and North Avenue. The Ivanhoe has since been demolished.
It was reported in a Sentinel story that Buthorn “dressed meticulously, with utmost regard for the correct attire, regardless of the more casual habits of his fellow townsmen. He was generally the only one wearing a top hat at the theatre; and at church he invariably wore a cutaway with striped trousers and a derby.”
For many years Buthorn ran a farm north of North Avenue between First and Seventh streets, in what is now the Brownson addition. The farm supplied all the milk, cream and butter for the kitchen as well as beef, pork and vegetables in season.
Buthorn was a charter member of Rotary, active in the Masonic Lodge, Elks, Redlands Country Club and Chamber of Commerce. He went along on the first auto trip to Salt Lake City. He was also a member of the school board.
Buthorn loved the theater and knew several of the stars, many of whom stayed at the La Court at one time or another. The register listed Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Bill Hart, W.C. Fields, Eddie Cantor, Al Jolson, Ethel Barrymore, George Arliss, Pavlova, Otis Skinner and his daughter, Cornelia.
Buthorn was born in Germany and was 12 years old when the family moved to the United States, settling in Brooklyn.
He learned the hotel and restaurant business when he worked for the Fred Harvey Co., the parent company of the Harvey House restaurants.
His first hotel was in Milwaukee, not far from the central office of the Schlitz Brewing Co. Buthorn and Joseph Schlitz, the brewery’s founder, became friends. Later, Schlitz built the Schlitz Hotel in Omaha, but it didn’t do well, so he offered Buthorn an interest in the hotel if he’d take over the management. Eventually Buthorn became the sole owner, and it was this hotel Buthorn sold when he bought the La Court.
William Buthorn died in July 1929 shortly after he had returned from a two-week business trip to Los Angeles by auto with driver Schippers, who had joined the staff as a porter in 1909. Schippers continued to work for the La Court until he retired in 1962.
From the day the Buthorn family moved in until the day the hotel was closed in 1967, responsibility for management of the La Court had been in Buthorn hands except for a two-year period immediately after the elder Buthorn’s death in 1929.
Next week: The La Court is THE place to entertain.