A decade ago, the former Knights of Pythias building in downtown Montrose was devastated by fire and has sat empty since. Hotelier Clay Bales has recently purchased the property, locally known as the KP building, with plans to revitalize it and develop the building into the new Rathbone Hotel. Bales intends for the boutique hotel to be a modern and inclusive space that reveres a piece of Montrose’s history while catering to locals and travelers alike.
Bales, who moved to Montrose with his fiancé in March of this year, has previously worked for Hilton and various real estate groups. He has a clear vision for the future of the KP building. The interior of the new hotel will be a “modern facility with nods to its historic past,” and the exterior will be the opposite, as Bales plans to restore and retain the historic facade with some modern updates. Soon the building will be transformed into a state of the art space with elements of the original design, containing a total of 18 guest rooms that feature high-quality finishes, fixtures, and furnishings. Some rooms will be lofted to take advantage of the high ceilings on the second floor while others will be street level and designed with ADA accessibility in mind.
The building is located on the corner of South Cascade Avenue and South 1st Street and has been home to several businesses since its initial construction as a Knights of Pythias Lodge in 1909, with residential apartments occupying the upstairs for many years. In a nod to the building's history, Bales has named the future hotel after Justus Rathbone, the original founder of The Knights of Pythias – a non-sectarian fraternal organization that began in 1864 and is still in existence today. While the building sat empty and uninhabitable due to the damages from the fire in 2012, tons of debris and damaged material were cleared out of the space. A previous owner made notable renovations to the original architecture, including restoring the hardwood floors as well as making repairs to structural and foundation elements. Bales is grateful that the previous owner completed this significant fire remediation, as it has enabled him to step in and bring his vision to life with less complication.
Bales is placing a major focus on the lobby of the hotel. Check-in for guests will be done via a kiosk, and all who enter will be “immediately immersed in a vibrant space.” The lobby will house a coffee shop by day that transitions to a cocktail bar in the evening. Bales describes it as an “active, energetic environment” and envisions that the space will be utilized by both visitors and locals. It will also be designed with comfort in mind, with the goal of attracting people such as remote workers looking for a place to work for the day, or anyone looking to simply enjoy a coffee or cocktail in an intimate space. Small bites will be available from the cafe/bar, but there will be no restaurant, as Bales intends to encourage guests to dine at local restaurants – a potential stimulant for the downtown economy. Outside, there will be a designated space for a food truck, part of the vision to make the street corner in front of the hotel into a vibrant space as well. Accordion windows will open from the lobby onto patio seating on the street, inviting people to come check out the new space.
Anthony Russo from the City of Montrose Business Development Office is pleased with the plans for the hotel's development. “We, as a city, fully support the project. Clay and Jay have been a pleasure to work with. They brought us one of the best plans we've ever seen,"explains Russo.
A major benefit of the project is not only the restoration of the character of one of the original buildings downtown, but the flow of people it will bring into town. At 80% occupancy, the hotel will host 12,000 guests annually, which is even more significant considering this is coming from a building that has sat empty for so long. The hotel will transition the building from a vacant space into a productive part of the community. “The hotel aligns with the city's plans to continue rejuvenating the downtown area to make it a beautiful, inviting area where people can shop, eat, and spend time. It presents a great opportunity to get people into the downtown corridor,” says Russo.
The restoration project continues a legacy of pride in the KP building since its original construction. The Montrose Daily Press from October 18, 1909, featured an article about the building when it was newly erected, stating, “The Knights have evidently builded [sic] for the future, and they have a building which will be a credit to the city long after it has passed the highest mark set for it.” Today, the new Rathbone Hotel promises to restore the KP building to its former glory, making it once again, as the Montrose Daily Press wrote in 1909, “one of the finest buildings to be found in any city.”
Written by Lauren Walch
Originally from Vermont, Lauren moved to Colorado seven years ago and is now proud to call the Western Slope home. When she's not working, you can find her on a hike, doing a crossword puzzle with a cat on her lap, or with friends at a local brewery or winery.