The St. Cloud Hotel has gone by a few different names in its long history. It began life as the aforementioned name before becoming the Denton Hotel and Hotel Cañon and then finally the St. Cloud once more. It has had its successes and failures but under Frances Wildgen, with the name Hotel Cañon, the business had a steady and popular run.
Frances Wildgen was born July 7, 1896 in Galesburg, Illinois as the second of five children. The family settled in Hoisington, Kansas and Frances married Jerome Wildgen in 1923. They had six children in total; Elizabeth (Bette), John, Robert, Leo, Helen Jean, and George. Due to complications of kidney failure, Jerome passed away in 1935. Frances was left to care for six children ranging in age from 11 years to 6 months. Family members didn’t believe Frances could care for the whole family and advised her to split the children up and send them to live with other relatives. Frances refused and instead moved to Cañon City with all her children and purchased the Hotel Cañon from Ben Thayer and Ed Geary. She successfully ran the hotel from 1939 to 1962 when she sold it to Dale Dimmitt.
According to records, Frances was one the first women to operate a major business on Main Street. She may have even been the first! Frances was an excellent hostess and visitors returned knowing they would always have good service. Her son, George, recalled in his memoirs that if any guest came more than once, Frances would remember their name. Actors also stayed at the hotel when movies were being filmed in town; Cañon City was one of those movies in 1948. Frances also acted as the local agent for Monarch Airlines and the Continental Trailways Bus Station, located in the hotel.
Frances was the first woman on Cañon City’s Chamber of Commerce board according to the memoirs of her son George. He also recalled her being the first woman board member of the Rocky Mountain Hotel Association. She passed away in 1975 and is buried in Lakeside Cemetery.
Happy Birthday, Frances Wildgen!
The information presented in this article is compiled using research conducted by the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.