Moffat County History: The Craig Motel’s early years |

Moffat County History: The Craig Motel’s early years

Dan Davidson and Jan Gerber
Craig Cottage Court, at 894 Yampa Ave., was built in 1927 by Ben H. Ellis. It was later owned and operated by Eugene and Ruby Dresser, longtime Craig residents.
Courtesy Photo

— As major highways began to see improvements during the 1920s and 1930s, one of the new features on the American scene were motels first called tourist camps or cabin courts.

In Craig, the first one was the Ellis Tourist Camp at 894 Yampa Ave., once known as Craig Cottage Court and now known as the Craig Motel.

The Ellis Tourist Camp was opened in the fall of 1927 by Ben H. Ellis, with the construction of a number of cabins.

On Oct. 1, 1928, it was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. E.L. Dresser, who will be fondly remembered by many Craig residents. They soon remodeled and redecorated all nine units.

By 1929, it had grown to include eleven cabins and a home for the caretaker.

The Feb. 6, 1929, edition of the Craig Empire mentions the following about the new tourist camp:

“Each cabin is electric lighted and furnished with bed, springs, mattress, stove, table, chairs, and cupboards, also good water, coal, and kindling are supplied.”

The following improvements we’re planned for spring:

“Several new cabins with kitchenettes and garage, also a laundry and bath house, including separate sanitary toilets and hot shower baths.

“The camp is well located, being situated in a quiet part of town, on the north and south Highway, just four blocks north of the bank, and Highway 40. Free maps and a daily road report are furnished the tourists.”

The July 10, 1929, Craig Empire states, “E.L. Dresser this week started work on a group of six new cottages for his Ellis Camp ground. The new cottages will be of the latest design, more pretentious and with more convenience than any camp along the Victory Highway between Denver and Salt Lake City. Each cottage will have running water and electric lights and an attached garage. Business has been rushing at the Ellis camp all summer.”

A May 19, 1948, Craig Empire Courier article states Eugene Dresser “found the tourist business was a rugged life involving an uphill struggle for quite a while. In 1932 and 1933 the crash hit and Dresser lost both his home and his homestead, but by hard struggle he was able to keep the tourist court.”

By 1935 business started to pick up.

According to the same article, “The one exciting moment in E.L. Dresser’s tourist business occurred while he was in Seattle, Wash. While there he read in the paper that Shirley Temple had stopped over in Craig and when he returned he learned that she and her party stayed at his tourist court. That was in 1940 and caused quite a bit of excitement in Craig.”

Soon the business was on its feet, and the Dressers decided to expand the campground to include 27 units, plus a main building for the office and residence.

Through the years they continued to make improvements, and the property became a lucrative business which enabled them to work in the summer months and spend the winter months in Florida.

They owned the motel until 1977, when it was purchased by May Perkins.

After several more changes in ownership, the Craig Motel continued to operate much the same as it had for many years. Sadly, the motel caught fire this week, leaving another huge loss to the community.

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