June 27, 2024

Kevin Kuharic on the Authentic, Inspiring, and Inclusionary Hotel de Paris Museum

Nestled deep in the Colorado Rockies is Hotel de Paris, a center of food and hospitality founded in 1875 by Louis Dupuy, a man who reinvented himself over and over again as a miner, a reporter, and a hotel proprietor.

While the site itself has a long and varied history, today it is owned and operated by The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of Colorado and is an affiliate site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Hotel de Paris Museum exterior

photo by: Don Graham/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Exterior of the Hotel de Paris a National trust Historic Site located in Georgetown, Colorado.

For executive director Kevin Kuharic, the site is “authentic, inspiring, and inclusionary,” because the story of Louis Dupuy is also the story of second chances. While visitors can stop by Georgetown, Colorado on their way to enjoy skiing and the slopes, Kuharic is “very proud of the museum’s 3-dimensional tour, an immersive walk-through Hotel de Paris. State of the art technology helped us create a virtual carbon copy of the hotel, which offers a real-life experience. It has proved to be a useful tool for addressing accessibility issues.”

Learn more about how Kuharic fell in love with history and what it is about Hotel de Paris that inspires him today.

What first inspired your love of history?

A person sitting on a tan lounge chair in front of some book shelves.

photo by: Povy Kendal Atchison

Kevin Kuharic, executive director of Hotel de Paris.

A formal portrait of Louis Dupuy. Credit: Hotel de Paris

photo by: Hotel de Paris Museum

Louis Dupuy, owner of the Hotel de Paris.

My love of history is formed by a blend of several life experiences, not in equal measure. My father was a menopause baby, so my paternal grandparents were Victorians. My grandmother wore a bustle, and my grandfather built a Sears Roebuck & Company kit house.

It was this house in which I lived as a newborn baby. I have no recollections of the house, and I learned quite young that this set of grandparents died before I was born. I only knew them through stories, where they lived and worked, where they worshipped, and where they were buried. My love of history and old cemeteries stems from regular grave tending and picnic outings graveside.

What's your earliest memory of experiencing a historic site?

These grandparents are buried in South Bend, Indiana at Highland Cemetery which occupies Potawatomi land. In addition to family outings there, my public school would conduct field trips to the burial grounds to see the gravesite of Knute Rockne and visit the Council Oak (believed to be 16th century), under which tribes would meet prior to colonization by French and English fur trappers (the Council consisted of Potawatomi, Miami, Illinois, and others). By the time I visited the tree in the early 1970s, it was cabled and braced and in slow decline. Son of Council Oak (a descendant tree grown from Council Oak acorns) has since replaced the original specimen.

When people visit Hotel de Paris, what you want them to see, do, and feel while they are there?

When people visit Hotel de Paris Museum, I want them to see themselves in the struggles of Louis Dupuy, our central historic figure who (after years of failures) was changed by a brush with death and eventually found his greatest success. I want visitors to strip away his labels (white, European, male) and see his humanness…especially his flaws and his ability to be resilient.

If people can see themselves or others in Dupuy’s story of second chances, then the museum has succeeded. Before I was impacted by our reinvention story, I used to say, “I fix places, not people.”

Now, I say, “I fix places to help people.”

Statue in the hotel courtyard

photo by: National Society of Colonial Dames in the State of Colorado

A view of the Reclining Stag statue at the Hotel de Paris.

What is your favorite part of your site?

My favorite part of the site is the story we tell because it gives many people hope when they are struggling to figure out what to do next in their lives. Other than that, I am fond of Reclining Stag, a cast zinc statue by J. L. Mott Iron Works. The figure symbolizes Saint Julian the Hospitaler, the patron of innkeepers, travelers, magicians, carnival workers, jugglers, murderers, pilgrims, and the childless. I am a combination of some of these types of people. You will just have to speculate.

What project at the site is energizing you today?

I am currently working on overseeing the installation of slip resistant pedestrian grade glass in a portion of the hotel’s 1878 Commercial Kitchen. This change will allow a partial view of the cellar. The viewing panel will be like ones found around the world that allow ruins to be viewed under later structures (the cellar pre-dates the kitchen). After years of visitors asking what is below the present trap door, we have decided to show not tell!

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While her day job is the associate director of content at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Priya spends other waking moments musing, writing, and learning about how the public engages and embraces history.

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