Silver Spoon for Baby’s First Christmas,
by Silvia Pettem (published in the Boulder Daily Camera, Dec. 21, 2012)

[republished with permission of the author 4/11/15]

A century ago, silver spoons were considered special baby gifts on a baby’s first Christmas.

Most of these spoons were small and had short handles that made them easy for babies to grasp.

But Ada May Vandewark was given a silver souvenir teaspoon. In the bowl was an intricately painted image of the Hotel Boulderado.

Johanna Whiteman, Ada May’s daughter, wrote in an email that her mother had been born in Fort Collins on Jan. 12, 1913.

“She had relatives in Boulder County,” Whiteman related. “Perhaps the spoon was a baby gift from them.”

hotel boulderado boulder colorado

“Ada” is engraved on the spoon’s handle. Most likely, the spoon was a gift for her first Christmas, in 1914. Also engraved above the still vibrant and colorful painting are the words, “The Boulderado, Boulder, Colo.”

In December 1914, the hotel was gearing up for its sixth anniversary. The Boulderado had opened on New Year’s Day of 1909 to fill the need for a deluxe downtown hotel that was large enough to accompany convention crowds. Building funds were raised by popular subscription by the hotel’s owner, the Boulder Hotel Co.

William L. Beattie, formerly manager of a hotel in Iowa, was the Boulderado manager from 1912 to 1917. He lived in an apartment on the fifth floor with his family -- wife Bessie; their 10-year-old son, Irwin; Bessie’s niece Emilie Milligan, and Buster, the family dog.

Every day, Beattie came downstairs to work wearing a three-piece suit, complete with tie, hat, gloves, diamond stickpin and spats.

At the time, the hotel had a total of 90 rooms that varied in price from $1 to $2.50 per day, without bath or meals, to a flat rate of $50 per month, with bath and all meals included. Guests whose rooms did not include a bath used bathrooms down the hall.

The dining room (now Q’s Restaurant) served breakfast, lunch and dinner, but no alcohol. Boulder residents had voted the city “dry” in 1907. If guests wanted to drink beer, wine or liquor, they had to smuggle bottles into their rooms.

It seems likely that Ada May’s parents and extended family might have, at least, dined at the Boulderado. A newspaper reporter raved at the time about the dining room’s “snowy linen, delicate bouquets, and polished silver.” There was no mention, though, of souvenir spoons.

The baby’s father, James F. Vandewark, had moved to Colorado from Nebraska in 1873, at age 3. His wife, Helen Devers, had come to the state in 1887. Both families made their homes in Fort Collins, where Ada May was born.

The Boulder County relatives were on the Devers side of the family and included Charles Wolfer, a barber who became one of Louisville’s prominent physicians.

Christmas menus at the hotel featured roast young turkey stuffed with oysters, as well as prime rib of beef. Palms, ferns and flowers decorated the lobby, where a chamber orchestra played popular musical selections.

If Ada May’s family had celebrated the holiday by going out to dinner in Boulder, the hotel was most likely where little Ada unwrapped her spoon.

Silvia Pettem and Carol Taylor write on history for the Daily Camera, alternating weeks. Email Silvia at, Carol at or write to the Daily Camera, 5450 Western Ave., Boulder 80301-2709 .

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