Burning Down the Rockies Inn - Denver, Colorado

In 2014, I decided to celebrate 4/20 with a lengthy drive around the city and suburbs of Denver. My mission was to scout out new places to photograph. I snapped a quick shot of the Rockies Inn, located at the intersection of I-25 and Evans Avenue, as I was driving by. I'd always intended to come back for better pictures, but that was forgotten amongst all the other places that leaped ahead of it on my attention list.

At one time, the Rockies Inn was a really nice motel. With a swimming pool, bar and restaurant inside. It's location, directly off the interstate and close to the main business centers of Denver, made it an appealing stop for decades. By the last decade or so, the Rockies Inn was obsolete and quickly headed downhill. The motel evolved into more of an extended-stay pseudo-apartment building.

Photo of the Rockies Inn during cleanup, date unknown. 
I found this via Google images, the photo is credited to Burl Rolett.

The Rockies Inn was sold in February, 2015. Greenbox self storage would demolish the motel and build a three story eco-friendly self storage facility on the land. All residents were evicted, the motel closed and the utilities shut off, on March 1, 2015.

Denver 7 (the local ABC affiliate), ran this story on the motel's closing.

In April, 2015, demolition prep work began on the building, including asbestos removal. The plan was to have the Rockies Inn demolished by the end of May, 2015. That stretched for almost a year with it still standing. Other than a statement by the new owners that even more asbestos removal needed to be done before the motel could be demolished, no other reasons for the lengthy delay were mentioned. I wondered if the entire motel was made out of asbestos or something...

On April 1, 2016, as I was driving to work, I saw a huge plume of smoke to the northeast. Not long after seeing it, a traffic alert came on the radio, warning motorists to stay away from the I-25 & Evans Avenue area.

His next words kind of ruined my night: "Due to a large fire at the Rockies Inn motel, Evans Avenue and all ramps and are closed..."

Video was being shot overhead from the Denver 7 helicopter, as the fire was being fought on the ground. The pilot happened to be circling over the motel, and managed to get the perfect shot just as the third floor collapsed in flames.

Now this is some incredible video!

Knowing the place was soon to be demolished, I still procrastinated stopping by the Rockies Inn... Now I'll never get the photos I wanted...

But wait! Now I can get all sorts of awesome fire damage photos!

Significantly less bummed, I planned my visit for two days later. Just after sunrise, once my shift ended, on April 3, 2016.

Yup, that fire sure did a bunch of damage...

I drove past the charred remains of a motel and turned on Dahlia St. to park the car and begin my walk.

Directly south was a parking lot, fenced off from the Rockies Inn parking lot. The gate to this lot was open, so I let myself in and took pictures of the awesome damage to this wing of the motel. Funny they left the motel banner up over a year after it closed... I want it...

The south side of the Rockies Inn, from east to west.

Here is the east side of the motel, with the entire third floor missing. As you can see in the linked video above, when the walls collapsed, they fell down onto the bar on the right side of the picture. Some of that wall can still be seen leaning on it.

Although it remained closed for 6 weeks after the fire, The Dirty Duck Bar was spared from disaster.

The alley between The Dirty Duck and The Rockies Inn. The collapsed third floor had fallen between the buildings. The Denver Fire Department concentrated on keeping the fire from spreading across the alley, as there was already no saving the motel. And no reason to...

The north entrance to the former La Estampida Night Club on the first floor of The Rockies Inn. 

And a side view of the front, with a side of twisted metal beam.

Here's a better view of the former La Estampida Night Club, next to the entrance of the motel lobby, covered by a plywood wrapped canopy. The absence of the third floor is striking... And if you look real close, you can see that someone was kind enough to hang up the pay phone!

A walk next to the I-25 off ramp, between the security fences, allowed me to get as good a look at the fire damage as I could, going along the west side of the motel property. South of the canopy looked like what may have been the restaurant. Without knowing anything for certain, I think the indoor pool may have been in the space that disappears as the hill inclines.

The northwest corner of the property had a large empty area with grass growing over it. At first I'd imagined this may have been for an outdoor pool at some point. Until I found out the Rockies Inn had an indoor pool... My next guess would be a long closed gas station, that was swallowed up when the interstate was widened in the late 1990's.

The Rockies Inn was finally demolished in September 2016. Sadly, I did not get any pictures...

I never heard the official cause of the fire. Arson was suspected and inspected. But with the state of the building -both before and after the fire- officials speculated the cause may never be known...


While researching this story, I found some promotional photos of the Rockies Inn. I have no idea the year they were taken, or how accurate a representation they are of the actual Rockies Inn when it still existed...

This would be the main entrance, hidden away under the plywood covered canopy.

Inside the lobby.

A room...

A nother room...


To date, no work has begun on the Greenbox project. 

However, the Rockies Inn signage remains standing defiantly...

Not anymore sign...


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