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Marketing the Macabre: The Black Monarch Hotel

At the foot of Pikes Peak in Victor, Colorado, the Monarch Hotel has been twice reborn.

It originally opened in 1895 as “the finest gentlemen’s club” (a fancy term for a saloon/brothel/casino) in the West. The hotel was rebuilt after a fire in 1899, and later left to rot.

Thirteen decades after welcoming its first guests, the hotel spread its wings once again as the Black Monarch Hotel, a new contender for the scariest place to stay in the Rockies.

Adam Zimmerli cut his teeth in the concert, cannabis and construction industries in Denver before buying a house that was part of “the early wave of Airbnb” in the city, he says. That success led him to the idea of developing a cabin complex in Teller County, where he found affordable land and building permits.

One day in 2017, he stopped in Victor. When he saw the historic buildings on Victor Avenue, it was love at first sight. “These properties have fantastic bones, and they’re beautiful,” he remembers.

A for-sale-by-owner sign on the old Monarch Hotel caught his eye. He figured the price was $2 million, but called the number on a lark. It turned out the owner, Park State Bank & Trust in Woodland Park, wanted $195,000.

The bank also wanted the right buyer, and Zimmerli fit the bill. He closed on a three-year, lease-to-own contract in 2018 and immediately rolled up his sleeves.

By May 2019, he’d restored four guestrooms and rechristened the hostelry as the Black Monarch Hotel. The decidedly ominous theme includes rooms named for serial killer H.H. Holmes and British bogeyman the Black Annis, among other Victorian horrors.

Zimmerli says his love of the counterculture led him down this dark and twisted path, as well as a repeat viewing of “Rosemary’s Baby.” His line of thought: “It needs to be an attraction. It can’t just be a building.”

He was right. The first year saw 100% occupancy. “It’s blown up,” Zimmerli says. “We joke and say it’s a cult. We’ve had people get Black Monarch tattoos already.”

Heather Stewart, an artist who lives in Manitou Springs, is one of the tattoo-bearers. The self-described “horror fanatic” slept at the Black Monarch twice in its first year of operation and plans to return soon. “My goal is to stay in every room,” Stewart says.

Title in hand, Zimmerli is now busy with phase two: restoring three more rooms and bolstering energy efficiency with a $150,000 commercial loan. “In one year, we were able to take an abandoned, failing building and turn it into a viable business that’s in the black,” he says.