Four Star Memories

Originally published in August, 1998, Weld County Past Times, Greeley Tribune; written by Mike Peters.

An old blue bus sits there in the lot at 8th Avenue and 7th Street, unmoved for months. Weeds grow around the edge of the dirt lot, and dust blows on hot summer days.

Now the parking lot for one of Greeley’s leading bars, The State Armory, it’s difficult to imagine this was once the location of one of the best hotels in the state.

Until it was bulldozed in 1964.

Built in 1881 as the Oasis Hotel (named because Greeley was an “oasis” in the Great American Desert) the new inn was the product of several Greeley pioneers who pooled their money – about $85,000 – to build the 100-room “palace.”

“Until (the hotel) was opened,” wrote historian David Boyd, “accommodations were very inferior in Greeley and it was shunned by the drummer (traveling salesman).”

The new hotel had three floors, a large ballroom and dining area, steam heat, electrical lighting, and both city water and water from an artesian well.

Boyd also noted that the only billiard tables in town were at the Oasis, but they had none of the problems normally associated with pool halls, because they didn't sell beer.

While the hotel became famous for its northern Colorado accommodations, its glory was yet to come – when Daniel Camfield bought it in 1906 and promised to convert it into one of the best hotels in Colorado.

While Camfield would make good on his promise, he already had a good start on a luxury hotel.

Camfield paid only $25,000 for the Oasis, but he went right to work, adding a fourth floor, expanding the banquet facilities and adding a new porch. He poured another $35,000 into the hotel to make it a showplace. Some said it was the third best hotel in Colorado – after the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and Denver’s Brown Palace.

It became the center of social events in Greeley. The menu was extensive, offering oysters (six different ways), a variety of beef roasts and steaks, seafood, wild game and delicacies such as smoked ox tongue, lake trout with almonds, California asparagus and lobster salad.

There were also interesting rumors about the hotel and its connection to the Rex Theater, across 7th Street. Stories told of men who would go into the theater on the premise of attending a stage play, only to sneak over to the hotel through an underground tunnel. It was never explained what happened at the hotel, but the mysterious tunnel was found when the theater was torn down in the 1980s. Some historians, who may be more realistic but less romantic, claim the tunnel was used for utilities, such as water lines and heating ducts.

J.C. Ewing owned the hotel for longer than anyone. He purchased it from Camfield in 1916, and sold it in 1952. Although he owned it for 36 years, Ewing closed the dining room for much of that time. However, it was remodeled and reopened again in 1954 by the new managers, Henry and Jessie Mae Watson.

The hotel also was the home for several businesses, located on the street level. The Greeley Tribune, KFKA radio, Western Union Telegraph office, Greeley Auto Supply and Yeoman Washer and Dryer Service were a few of the local businesses housed in the hotel during its 80-year existence.

It became a community gathering place and it was customary on Sundays for families to go to the Camfield Brunch, where the best meals in town would be served and special musical events would be held in the ballroom.

In later years, several people became permanent residents of the hotel, and could be seen sitting on the wide front porch in the evenings, watching the downtown traffic and playing checkers.

The last owner of the hotel was a holding company, Bob Reese Motors Inc. of Greeley, which purchased the hotel in 1963 and razed it a few months later. The new owners said they “had ideas” in mind for what would be built at the corner and even discussed building a new hotel.

But for three decades, the corner continued to be a dirt lot, until last month, when the Greeley City Council announced it was time to pave it.

The Oasis Hotel was said by some to be the third best hotel in Colorado – after the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and Denver’s Brown Palace.