Eighteen-year-old Ezra Kauffman left his Illinois home in 1867 and moved west. After working as a cowhand in Nebraska, hunting and trapping in the Middle Park area, and prospecting in Colorado’s mountains, he became a professional hunting guide in the late 1870s. Many clients included individuals and groups from Europe and the eastern United States. Ezra also guided miners to the newly discovered Lulu City mining camp, west of Fort Collins, in 1879. In the 1880s, Ezra settled in Hot Sulpher Springs where he owned and operated a saloon and in 1888 married Clara Johnson. Ezra, Clara, and their young children moved to Grand Lake to open a resort hotel in the early 1890s. Ezra constructed a two-story square hotel from large logs that he hauled from nearby forests. He whipsawed three sides of the logs and left the log exterior round. The family occupied it in the spring of 1892, making it their home and a hotel.
Over the next few years, Ezra added a large kitchen, front parlor, large porch, and additional rooms on the second floor. Metal, covered by various colors of muslin, lined the interior walls, while some rooms received wallpaper over the muslin. White oilcloth covered the kitchen walls and ceiling. Ezra innovatively fabricated an indoor water system consisting of a large galvanized tank in the attic. The operation of a hand pump, located on the north shore of Grand Lake (20 feet away), transported water to the tank. An overflow pipe projected from the building’s eaves to show when the tank was full. In the winter, the family cut holes in the lake ice and carried buckets of water to the house.
The family continued operating the hotel year round until 1920, when Ezra died. After Ezra’s death, his widow and daughters operated it as a summer resort hotel until they sold it in 1946. Today the Grand Lake Area Historical Society owns the Kauffman House where it operates a house museum. The Grand Lake Area Historical Society has received two State Historical Fund Grants to assist in restoring the hotel. For more information on the Kauffman House visit their website or during warm months stop by the museum.