The Thompson brothers constructed the Grand Imperial Hotel in 1882. The first train from Durango to Silverton, Colorado, arrived on July 4, 1882, the same year that construction of the hotel started.
The founder of The Grand Imperial, C.S. Thompson, represented the Crown Perfumery in London, England. He moved to Silverton, Colorado in 1882 to inspect mining prospects, and he purchased four lots of the twenty-first block to make Silverton “the best town in the Southern part of Colorado.” Thompson knew that a hostelry was necessary for housing visitors such as wealthy mine owners, black powder explosives salesmen and other speculators. Many of the early guests were, like Thompson, silver barons checking on their holdings.
The structure of the building includes French Second Empire features such as dormer windows that extend from the Mansard roof. The columns on the exterior of the first floor are examples of Italianate architecture. The centerpiece in the tavern was made of mahogany and cherry wood backed by three one-inch-thick plate glass mirrors that were imported from France. Much of the western influence in the hotel’s design is due to later owner Winfield Morton wanting to incorporate his Texas background into the heavily Victorian appearance. The result was the addition of western furnishings and interior decorating. Yet, the most recent owners stated that “there was never a more classic example of Victorian architecture.” Although the decorations and general appearance are eclectic, the owners chose to maintain a uniform appearance to match what the building looked like in its most successful period during the silver rush.
The hotel was originally known as the Grand Hotel and has gone through many phases since, not all of which were successful. The construction plans for the hotel included three stories, arch windows, a saloon, a dining hall, stores, offices, guest rooms, sample rooms, and suites. The first floor housed the local post office, the town bank, the Bureau of Mines, a general store, a doctor’s office, and the Silverton Standard Newspaper. The second-floor housed courtrooms for the town government. The Sample Room allowed for salesmen to use the hotel for their commercial ventures. Instead of lugging sample cases, businessmen could leave their belongings to sell in a room near to where they were staying. In 1950 Winfiled Morton of Texas bought the hotel but after refurbishing it he went into foreclosure. In 1958 management passed to a longtime resident of Silverton, Lou Parcell, until he passed it along to the Broadmoor Hotel’s ownership group in 1963.
The Harper family—who also owned the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad—bought the hotel in 2015 to begin restoration. The family restored windows, carpet, and bathrooms. The Harpers added authentic furniture from the late nineteenth to guestrooms to restore the hotel as closely as possible to the state of its original appearance.