Sidles, Harry Edgar
(1873 - 1934)
Harry was born in Nebraska City, Nebraska and showed a tendency to be an entrepreneur at an early age, operating a bicycle shop at age 17.
In 1909 he acquired a car dealership – the Nebraska Buick Auto Company in Lincoln – and was the principal behind The Sidles Company (later named the Sidles-Duda-Myers company), the distributor of auto parts throughout Nebraska as well as portions of North Dakota and Iowa.
His business interests evolved into the Union Holding Corp, which expanded to include development of the Lincoln Airplane & Flying School and later the Union Airport northwest of Lincoln.
In 1924 the holding company formed radio station KFAB in Lincoln.
But Sidles was best known for his business venture that tied him to Evergreen – building the Troutdale Hotel – sometimes referred to by family members as a hobby, pet project or a rich man's plaything.
The Sidles family summers in Evergreen
Harry and his wife, Dorothy, traveled to Evergreen for summer vacations, building a home on Upper Bear Creek Road in 1914 – Rippling Waters – directly across from a summer resort named Troutdale Resort. It was one of several resorts along Upper Bear Creek (Singin' River Ranch, Bendemeer, Greystone, T-Bar-S, to name a few) that catered to high society from Denver as well as extended-stay summer vacationers from nearby states.
Troutdale Resort was owned by J. D. Babcock until 1916 when it was sold for $100,000 to the Denver Mountain Parks Securities Co., which platted the land into 500 home sites. The resort had one large building and 35 rustic cabins when Sidles purchased it in 1919 under the name of the Troutdale Hotel and Realty Co and renamed the resort Troutdale-in-the-Pines.
The effects of Denver Mountain Parks
Evergreen had become the hub of the 40-mile Lariat Loop that connected Denver Mountain Parks from Golden to Lookout Mountain to Evergreen and down Bear Creek Canyon to Morrison; it was during the advent of tourism by the automobile, and improved roads made Evergreen much more accessible. Sidles could see a future for the area.
Although widely regarded as the finest hotel in the West and frequently compared to the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, the famed Troutdale-in-the-Pines began as a four-story stone structure with 100 guest rooms and 35 rustic cabins. It was built with 6,000 wagonloads of local rock, hand-picked from within a five-mile radius of the construction site. Historical writings say construction started in early November of 1919 with a grand opening held on June 20, 1920 [difficult to comprehend that it could have been constructed in such a short amount of time and during the winter months].
Sidles reportedly spent $500,000 in initial improvements and renovations, including the addition of a swimming pool and landscaping. In 1921 rooms at the luxury hotel started at $4.50/day, including meals, lodging, dances, and all hotel privileges.
By 1927 it had grown to a a structure with 300 guest rooms and 45 rustic cabins in the surrounding wooded area. It boasted a large lounge, dining room enough for 250 people plus a 40' x 80' screened-in/glassed-in dancing pavilion that extended 75' over a 2 1/2-acre lake.
Two hundred building sites nearby were platted for summer homes, known as Troutdale Estates; buyers were promised rights to use the facilities of the hotel.
The City and County of Denver had begun acquiring numerous parcels of land in the mountains west of the city to create a playground for the people of Denver. In 1916 they'd acquired the deDisse ranch through eminent domain, creating a lake with the construction of the dam; a 9-hole golf course was also designed and built. In 1926 Sidles conveyed 17 acres of land to the City of Denver to expand the golf course with the stipulation that it always be maintained as a golf course; it was intended to be an amenity for the high-class guests who frequented his hotel less than a mile away.
Troutdale catered to the rich and famous
The hotel operated just 2 1/2 months each year – generally from mid-June to September 1st. It offered big-name orchestras and bands such as Tommy Dorsey and Ted Weems and attracted numerous Hollywood celebrities. Names such as the Marx Brothers, Douglas Fairbanks (Sr.), Mary Pickford, Clark Gable, Jack Benny, Greta Garbo, Liberace, Ethel Merman, and Ernest Borgnine frequently spent weeks there, enjoying the moonlight dancing and elegant dining as well as the pure mountain air. Political figures such as Teddy Roosevelt and Adlai Stevenson also visited. It was known world-wide, and well-to-do guests came from great distances.
The hotel was largely staffed by college students from Lincoln, Nebraska, who were encouraged to save their earnings for tuition. Mrs. Sidles reportedly encouraged them by matching their college savings at the end of the summer.
The demise of Troutdale
Harry's son, Fred, took over when Harry died in 1935 at age 61. It took three years after Sidles' death for management to conclude that the hotel would need to be sold to settle the estate, but a sale would not take place until 1944. It had never been a money-maker. Because of World War II, gas rationing, and diverted attentions, the hotel did not open for two consecutive summers in 1943 and 44. The Texas businessmen who purchased it in 1944 quickly resold to a group of investors from Chicago, but it never regained its reputation as a First Class hotel.
The vacationing habits of people changed, and the hotel declined steadily over the years. Numerous efforts to revive it for different purposes all failed, and the hotel was razed in 1994, making way for 18 luxury homes.
Sources: Evergreen, Our Mountain Community (Sternberg); Jefferson County Historical Society; genealogy records available online