A couple of patterns have emerged over the decades that the Creede Hotel has been bought and sold. First: when it’s for sale, it is usually decrepit. Second: if you’re lucky, and if you decide to give your whole life to it while it’s in your hands, you might leave it a little better than you found it. That pattern is the exception rather than the rule, but happily it was the case when the hotel was in my family, starting in 1946.
The purchasing party were two women and two men: Lillian Hargraves, her sister Dixie, and Lillian’s sons Orin (OK) and Ed. Dixie (more about her below) supplied most of the cash. OK and Ed, both recently demobilized from the war in Europe, contributed some of their separation pay. Lillian had no money to contribute but she was to become the leading light of the hotel for the next twenty years.
How did these four, natives of the Texas and Lousiana bayou country, converge on a small Colorado mining town? There are three main threads in the backstory. First and foremost is Dixie, or officially, Angeline Munn. I’ve written about her adventurous life in greater detail here. Eight years older than Lillian, she had come to Colorado in the 1920s and married Arthur Munn. He was a shoe salesman. She became a prospector, an owner and operator of gold mines, a wealthy socialite in Denver, and a successful hotelier in her own right, all in the course of a decade. In the late 1930s she bought the fabled Windsor Hotel in Denver. It was falling into ruin at the time and Dixie summoned all of her energy and resources to put it back together. She was in her late 50s when she sold the Windsor and she was ready to settle into a quieter way of life when the Creede Hotel appeared on her radar.
Dixie and Lillian were both children of Edward Huff, a rice planter in Vermilion Parish. Lillian, the baby of a family of ten, had married at age 19 in Beaumont. She did what most young wives of her era did: started to turn out babies at two-year intervals. These were OK (born 1920), Edith (1922) and Ed (1924).
All went well with the family until Lillian’s husband Orin, a pioneer aviator, died in an industrial accident in 1934. He…