ROUTT COUNTY – People living in the town of Yampa, just south of Steamboat Springs, are wondering whether a historic building destroyed by fire in early January will return to their community.
The century's old Royal Hotel went up in flames after an issue erupted with its coal-heating system. Everything in the building was destroyed.
The hotel was considered the heart and soul of Yampa. For more than a hundred years, hunters, fishermen and outdoorsmen from all over Colorado would visit it.
"Little towns like this or a little town out on the Eastern Plains – whenever they lose something the town hurts. It's important to us. A heart and a soul," said Paul Bonnifield, a local historian.
Many in the Rocky Mountain Community grew up with the Royal Hotel, some even worked in it.
"Well, for 65 years I walked past this to get my mail every morning and it seems impossible for it to be gone," said Hildred Fogg, a local resident.
Perhaps no Royal Hotel guest is as well-known as "Rufus the Ghost." As the legend goes, Rufus was either killed during a poker game or died from the flu. No one really knows. Regardless, folks in Yampa say he haunted the hotel for 100 years.
"One of the questions that was asked almost immediately after the fire was 'What happened to Rufus?' Because he's important to the town," said Bonnifield.
When something bad happens to a local legend, the only thing left to do is write a new chapter. Which is exactly what the town folk did.
"His old friend and neighbor invited him over and he's now living in the white church with the Holy Spirit across the street from the Royal Hotel," Bonnifield added.
The future of the Royal Hotel is unclear. Its current owners are just focusing on cleaning up the site for the time being.
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