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American Heritage Railways Announces Reopening Of Grand Imperial Hotel in Silverton, Colorado

DURANGO, Colo. – May 3, 2016 – American Heritage Railways, Inc., the country’s premier scenic tourist rail operator, the industry expert in rail-related special event management, and the parent company of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (D&SNGRR)™, today announced the long-awaited reopening of the historic Grand Imperial Hotel, Restaurant & Saloon in Silverton, Colorado, following an extensive 12-month restoration and renovation effort. The hotel will officially welcome guests for overnight stays beginning Sat., May 7, 2016, in conjunction with the D&SNGRR’s opening day of the season.

The day-to-day operations of the famed 133-year-old property and extensive renovation have been, and will continue to be, overseen by James Harper, son of American Heritage Railways co-founder, chairman, and chief executive officer Allen C. Harper. The younger Harper is also president of American Heritage Railways Hotels™, a newly-created division of the company specializing in the acquisition, renovation, and management of historic hotels throughout the country.

Beginning with the arrival of the first D&SNGRR train of the season from Durango on Sat., May 7, the highly-anticipated renovation will be commemorated with a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony coordinated by the Silverton Chamber of Commerce, and attended by mayor Christine Tookey, city council members from Durango and Silverton, field representatives from the Colorado State Assembly and Congressional leaders, dozens of local business owners, and hotel employees and their families. The signature event heralds the beginning of a day-long celebration for the new property that also includes tours by hotel staff and volunteers dressed in authentic Victorian-era attire; a street party featuring live entertainment from country and rock-and-roll band The High Rollers and the music and comedy of Joel Racheff of the Bar D Wranglers; and concluding with a jaw-dropping fireworks spectacular presented by the Silverton Volunteer Fire Department at 8:30 p.m. MDT.

“Today’s Grand Imperial Hotel guests will discover for themselves what locals, and countless visitors over the past 133 years, know well already: this property is one of the crown jewels of the Old West, and a step back into the nostalgia and a sophistication of a bygone era,” said Allen C. Harper. “While the renovation was extensive, we attempted to recreate every last, minute detail of the original construction so every hotel, restaurant, and saloon guest may have an incredibly authentic and enjoyable experience during his stay.”

Initially opened in 1883 by New York perfume and lumber magnate W. S. Thompson on Silverton’s famed Golden Block, the 40-room hotel was regarded as the pinnacle of luxurious accommodations in the Southwest. Once the state’s largest single-standing structure south of Denver, the Grand Imperial Hotel served as the official seat of the town of Silverton and San Juan Country during the first three decades of its existence. The first floor of the massive granite structure was home to the town’s post office, bank, general store, resident physician, and the offices of the Silverton Standard and the U.S. Bureau of Mines.

“The Grand, as it’s known to the locals, once again possesses the beauty, charm, and elegance that set the hospitality standard for Silverton…and the entire Southwest,” said James Harper. “With the renovation and reopening of this magnificent hotel, American Heritage Railways, American Heritage Railways Hotels, and the Harper Family are proud to be a part of Silverton’s historic past, present and future. It is our sincere hope the Grand Imperial Hotel, once again, will serve as a significant tourist draw, economic driver, and source of community pride in Silverton.”

Early stages of the hotel’s restoration focused on structural issues, such as plumbing, heating and electrical repairs. In the next phase, the family worked tirelessly to restore the beauty and charm of the original structure by refurbishing all windows and wood trim; repainting and recarpeting the entire hotel: and installing new bathrooms in all 40 suites. Finally, like in an episode of History Channel’s “American Pickers,” the family conducted a nationwide search to locate and purchase authentic 1880s-era furniture to place in the new hotel.

Note to Editors: High-resolution photograph of the Grand Imperial Hotel is available upon request by contacting American Heritage Railways marketing specialist Yvonne Lashmett at (970) 385-8801, or by e-mail at ylashmettn@durangotrain.com.

Keith R. Pillow, APR, MBA
For American Heritage Railways