Located in the remote eastern edge of North Park, Teller City sprang up in 1879. Based on the discovery of silver ore, this town’s development was hampered by lack of transportation. The only access at the time was through Laramie. North Park was part of Larimer County, and Jackson County was not created for another three decades. North Park residents were faced with a long trip through Wyoming to reach the county seat in Fort Collins.
Samuel B. Stewart and two other Fort Collins businessmen formed the Cache la Poudre & North Park Toll Road Company to remedy this situation. Their plan was to build a toll road starting at the Isaac Coe and Levi Carter tie camp at the base of Pingree Hill. At the time, this was the only access to the upper Poudre Canyon. Completed in October 1881, Stewart’s toll road ran over Cameron Pass dropping down to Gould then south to Teller City. This brought Teller City to within 85 miles of Fort Collins. Stewart immediately started stagecoach service and obtained a mail contract.
Stewart had grandiose plans, and he constructed a hotel at the base of Pingree Hill that could provide overnight accommodations. Called the Rustic House, the “L” shaped structure included a kitchen where travelers could fix their own meals. The trip to Teller City required two days during the winter, and a stopover was needed. In the summer, it was a long day, and the hotel provided an interlude in what must have been an exhausting trip.
What became known simply as the Rustic sat on the north side of what is now Colorado 14 immediately west of North County Road 69 (Pingree Hill Road). Stewart finished his hotel in 1881, but it was located on the site of the tie camp. To remedy this problem, Stewart filed for a homestead and secured a patent for the land four years later. A post office was set up within the building; it remained active until 1887.
Stewart had to borrow a considerable sum of money to complete the Rustic. He got a loan from Elbert T. Dunning secured on the title to the property. Stewart was busy working for Coe and Carter filling tie contracts and running his toll road. The hotel was neglected, and Dunning ended up with the property in 1885. Dunning had no intention of running a hotel and sold the property to Coe and Carter, who fixed it up as part of a bigger plan that included establishing a town. These plans were interrupted when Coe passed away, and Lady Catherine Moon ended up owning the Rustic as part of her real estate portfolio.
Later, Norman Haskins purchased the Rustic and put in new flooring and a new roof. He also added a large kitchen. Hot and cold running water topped off his improvements. What Haskins is most noted for, however, is the construction in 1912 of a hydroelectric plant to electrify the Rustic. In a rather strange transaction involving no money, he deeded the property to Mary Luthe, and Haskins left the area.
Luthe kept the hotel in operation for half dozen years and after her death, it passed into the hands of her estate’s executrix, Mary Holland. Holland took ownership in 1917 and removed the old board-and-batten siding replacing it with slab wood. This dramatically changed the look of the hotel and truly made it look like its name – rustic.
There were dramatic changes in access to the Rustic when road construction started in the lower part of Poudre Canyon. Crews had to overcome major construction problems through the rugged Big and Little Narrows including drilling a tunnel through a rock fin in 1916. In October 1920, there was a celebration to commemorate the completion of the canyon road to the Rustic, and six-years later, the road reached Walden. This must have improved business for Holland for she constructed a gas station and store on the south side of the road including cabins for rent. Holland hung on for a few more years before selling the complex of buildings in 1931.
Over its life time, the Rustic passed through more than 20 distinct owners. It went under the names of the Rustic House, Rustic Inn, Rustic Hotel, Rustic Lodge and simply the Rustic. The beginning of the end came when Iva B. Frost took over in 1946 and removed structural walls to create a large lodge room with a fireplace. Frost made many other improvements to the complex of buildings including the construction of a café on the west side of the store.
Other owners came along, many with big plans, but the building was no longer structurally sound. The Rustic closed in 1969 and after that, was used sporadically as a community meeting place. The old hotel was razed on Aug. 6, 1978 and since it lacked a true foundation, only an overgrown lot remains today. The final chapter closed in June 2008, when a fire destroyed the store, gas station and restaurant.
Originally called the Rustic House, it was completed by Samuel B. Stewart in 1881 as a stopover for stagecoach passengers traveling between Fort Collins and Teller City. This 1910 photograph shows how it looked originally. After Mary Holland took ownership in 1917, she removed the board-and-batten siding and replaced it with slab wood. (Kenneth Jessen collection)
The Rustic sat on the north side of Colorado 14 immediately west of North Country Road 69. It is sad that this historic structure could not be saved for future generations, but due to modifications and its age, it was not structurally sound. It was razed in 1978, a year after this photograph was taken. (Kenneth Jessen)