About The Armstrong Hotel
A Curious History by Owner Steve Levinger
Like many of Old Town Fort Collins’ buildings, the Armstrong Hotel has a long and curious history. As one of three historic hotels that graced downtown, it was the last to open and the only one still operating today.
A History of The Armstrong Hotel
In 1923, Charles and Carolyn Mantz opened the original Armstrong Hotel and named it after Carolyn’s deceased father (Andrew Armstrong) whose house once stood on the property. When it opened, the hotel was the tallest building in town, boasting two elegant dining halls, 41 guest rooms, and various retail shops. The Mantz family advertised the Armstrong Hotel as the ideal location from which to tour the Poudre Canyon and Rocky Mountain National Park.
In addition to welcoming visitors, the hotel offered Fort Collins residents a home away from home for many years. Serving the public’s growing love affair with the automobile, it housed the first chapter of the American Automobile Association, and during World War II, it was used as a barracks for the U.S. Army. Many long-term residents of the Armstrong also considered the hotel their home.
As the hotel changed hands, its name changed as well—first to the Empire Hotel, and later, the Mountain Empire Hotel. During the 1970’s, downtown Fort Collins fell into decline as new growth to the south drew business away. During that time the Armstrong hotel began to slip into disrepair as more and more visitors opted for newer hotels. To remain profitable, the Armstrong relied upon long-term residents and the occasional guests passing through Old Town. The shabby, dirt-cheap rooms ultimately attracted a rough crowd.
The City of Fort Collins later opted to focus more attention upon the improvement of the stagnant downtown area. Considerable time, effort, and money were focused into the revitalization of this area of the city, and the creation of an “Old Town” character and charm. Sadly, the changes to downtown seemed to pass by the hotel and it continued to slip further and further downhill. By the mid-‘90s, most citizens viewed the Armstrong as a “flop house” and hurried by it on their way downtown. Eventually, the hotel closed its doors in early 2000.
The tired, old building remained vacant for nearly three years before a new owner happened upon it, saw its potential, and brought the building back to life.
The Levinger family purchased the building in November of 2002 and renovation began in August of 2003. After years of being a home, a safe haven, and eventually an eyesore, the newly renovated and revitalized Armstrong Hotel reopened its doors in June of 2004.
The Levingers chose to preserve and restore as much of the building’s historic fabric and character as possible. The original storefronts and the 1940’s-era neon sign were recreated from historic photographs. Crumbling plaster walls and ceilings were repaired, weathered wood windows were restored, the beautiful fir floors were refinished, and period hall doors and transoms were faithfully reproduced.
The building’s architecture still reflects the simple, symmetrical, “clean” form of the early ‘20s. The east and south facades still feature leaded prismatic glass tiles used to diffuse light that came into the original lobby and dining rooms. Two light courts, which can be viewed from the third floor hall, allowed light and ventilation into all the central rooms on the upper floors.
Operable transoms over each room door exhausted hot air, providing natural ventilation and a cooling effect. Each corner of the building still features the elegant tile cartouche with a floral motif—the structure’s only non-utilitarian embellishment. Hand-in-hand with this restoration was an extensive update of the building’s mechanical and electrical systems, as the structure was brought up to current fire and building code.
Once an eyesore, The Armstrong Hotel is now one of Old Town Fort Collins’ truest gems. The hotel is a result of the Levingers’ ambitious efforts and the family’s belief that this hotel is a significant part of the downtown economy and community.
No matter the proprietor, The Armstrong Hotel has always been family-owned and operated, and we are proud to be a part of this legacy.
We are truly honored to have you as our guest. We encourage you to celebrate our hotel’s unique history during your stay. Take some time to explore the building inside and out. Check out the historic photographs in our lobby, and enjoy a piece of times gone by with us. Your stay here is the continuation of the Armstrong Hotel’s history.
The Armstrong Hotel Cat
Oreo ArmstrongOreo is our resident hotel cat and is about twelve years old. We do not allow her to enter guest rooms, in case one of our future guests has an allergy, but you are always welcome to come visit with her in the hotel lobby. Although she would love to indulge in food and treats given to her by hotel guests, we request that you do not feed her so she can maintain a healthy weight and thus live a long life!