New owners breathe fresh life into the historic Fairplay Hotel |

New owners breathe fresh life into the historic Fairplay Hotel

Special to the Daily/Linda BaloughChef Julia Devillaz spends most of her time behind the scenes preparing her favorite dishes with a flare.

FAIRPLAY – Two local residents are determined to return the Fairplay Hotel on Main Street in Fairplay to its former glory. David Meredith and chef Julia Devillaz purchased the aging structure on Oct. 1, and are already making major changes to the menu as well as the building itself. “We want to bring this place back to where it once was,” said Meredith, who fondly remembers stopping at the Fairplay for hot cocoa on trips from his boyhood home in Colorado Springs to the ski area. Instead of traveling the few miles to their house in Valley of the Sun, the couple has taken a room in the hotel to be near the heart of the business, and regularly put in 15 to 18 hour workdays.

“Our objective is to turn this into a mecca (for diners and travelers) and attract even more merchants to Fairplay,” said Devillaz between quick dashes to the kitchen to prepare for the lunch crowd. “This was once a hub of everything going on in Fairplay, and we want it to be that again.” The vibrant chef brings to her new venture a passion for cooking and food presentation that began back in Pennsylvania where, as a little girl, she loved to help her grandmother cook. “I tried some other things but I just kept coming back to the restaurant business,” she said. Her resumé includes a position as executive chef at Briarhurst Manor in Manitou Springs as well as experience as a purchasing agent for a several-location restaurant business during her 18-year experience in the food business. “She’s an artist with food presentation, too,” bragged Meredith with a broad smile.

Meredith brings a Renaissance Man background to the venture, with experience in marketing, sales, commercial and fine photography and a love of historical renovation. “It was hard to leave the Victorian house I redid in Colorado Springs,” he confided, but was quick to share the couple’s plans to restore the Fairplay Hotel room by room. The pair plans to look into getting the 1930s hotel placed on historical registers to honor the deep past of that location. Meredith said he could hardly wait to begin refurbishing the individual rooms. “We want to have every room have a different theme,” he said. Outside, Tim Gardner, a local painter, was repairing windows and praying for slightly warmer temperatures so he could put a fresh coat on the exterior of the shingled siding.

“They picked a spruce green for the new color – that will make a huge difference in the place,” he speculated.The original Fairplay Hotel was built in one of the boom times of the 1800s, and is the site of a number of legends, historical events and ghost stories. It is said to be the dwelling of a very particular ghost named Julia, who often rearranges the kitchen or is seen inspecting the hotel from the upper hallway. She probably approves of the new name for the restaurant – Julia’s Place, though she’s not been seen recently to be able to know. Of course, one of the rooms, number 212, where she is said to have lived, will certainly be decorated in her honor. The current structure was built after the first hotel burned in 1922. An ornate and stately liquor bar was rescued from the late 1800s Rachel’s Place in Alma and is a gathering center in the smoker-friendly hotel bar-turned-lounge.

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