The Crestone Eagle • January, 2021

A place for community & creativity: Andy Hackbarth reimagines the historic Saguache Hotel 

by Zaylah Pearson-Good

Long dirt roads, wide-open fields, and the exquisite expanse of the San Luis Valley provide a unique solitude for many residents. While solitude is welcomed by many, it can also bring a feeling of disconnect and isolation for those longing to socialize and form creative bonds. In this way, community centers play an imperative role in small town living. While COVID-19 has left many venues quiet this year, the Saguache Hotel is currently being renovated to be the Valley’s newest community hub, complete with stages for live music, a beer garden, coffee shop, bar, hotel, apartments, and eventually, a restaurant featuring locally-sourced produce, steak, and trout. Valley residents and travellers from afar can look forward to the dynamic offerings of this unique venue scheduled to open spring 2022. 

The Hotel’s imagined beer garden.

It only took one walkthrough for new owner Andy Hackbarth to know he wanted to take on the immense task of bringing the Saguache Hotel back to life. He admits that running a hotel had never been a life goal, but after a spontaneous tour of the building last November, he could not shake the desire to revive the roughly 10,500 sq. ft. hotel. Andy’s ideas for the space are limitless: he wants to host a different genre of live music each night, a gallery to showcase local artists, visitors to gather around outdoor fire pits, local youth to help with building projects . . . he even wants to put up a seasonal ice-skating rink. While the possibilities are vast, the main focus of the Hotel will be to enrich the creative community.   

As a talented musician himself, with years spent performing guitar and song across the globe, Andy feels called to share the creative experience with others. “Beauty, art, and music are the things that make life worth living,” he reflects; “They are the things that bring us happiness and carry us through hard times.” It can be a challenge to cultivate an artistic community in rural places, so a primary function of the Hotel will be to bring people together, whether with the purpose of sharing music, dance, theatre, fine art, or local events that cater to community projects. The vision is simple yet essential: to create a dynamic community resource. 

The Saguache Hotel in its early days.

While ownership has changed hands many times in the last century, the Saguache Hotel has been a meaningful place for people to recreate and renew for years. First built in 1910, the Hotel has a long past of lodging and nourishing travellers. It also served as a hangout for locals and as a meeting point for groups such as The Cattlemen’s Association. Excitedly, Andy shares that he has received “overwhelming” support by residents who are thrilled to know that such a beloved historical building will be reborn. “People are stopping by literally every day to say how excited they are, and how much they want to see this building be revived,” reports Andy. 

In honor of the building’s unique history, Andy plans to restore the Hotel as much as he can to its early 20th century aesthetic. Refurbishing exterior brick, installing large clawfoot tubs, keeping the original windows, and painting the roof back to its original red color are some ways that the Hotel will maintain its character. Thanks to a partnership with non-profit Colorado Preservation Inc. and a grant issued by History Colorado and the State Historical Fund, Andy is able to partially pay for these preservation-based renovations. The project is also being supported by a GoFundMe page, which can be accessed through the hotel’s website, www.saguachehotel.com.

In addition to maintaining the unique feel of the old hotel, renovations are being designed to follow sustainable building strategies. Andy reports, “We are trying to get away from fossil fuels whenever possible.” With plenty of south-facing windows and rooms, the building is well set up to receive passive and active solar heat. Solar panels are already scheduled to be placed on top of the hotel’s old boiler room. Retention of heat will be managed through detailed and eco-friendly insulation, the use of interior storm windows, and the employment of efficient, radiant heating units, such as masonry heaters. 

Both locals and travellers can expect to stay cozy at the new Hotel, as it will offer a wide range of accommodations. Upstairs, Andy is polishing up 5-6 hostel-style rooms that will share several bathrooms. Around the hall, guests will find more luxurious rooms that feature a private bathroom and clawfoot tub. On the north end, Andy plans to develop 3-4 apartment-style rooms, one of which will be ADA compliant. These added apartments will ideally provide greater housing opportunities to local professionals who work downtown, such as teachers and police officers. Downstairs, guests will find entertainment at the coffee shop, bar, and performance stages. Outside, music, games, and seasonal events will complete the venue.

After decades of vacancy, the historic Saguache Hotel is being brought back to life! By creating a safe place for everyone to recreate and connect creatively, the Hotel will pump new energy and opportunity into the Valley. Andy is excited to include the perspectives and ideas of locals into the renovation, and shares that “The success of this town and the success of this hotel will be from everyone coming together and having a grander vision.” He sees the Saguache Hotel as an exciting new destination for tourists across Colorado as they travel through the magical San Luis Valley. Andy smiles, “We just need to give them a reason to pull off the highway.” It would seem that the new Hotel will be reason enough!

To follow Andy’s progress with hotel renovations and to learn more about the project, visit www.saguachehotel.com.