May 9, 2017

Did Soapy Smith stay at Zang's Hotel in Creede, Colorado?

Zang's Hotel and Annex (saloon)
circa 1892-93
Courtesy of Denver Public Library Digital Collections
(Click image to enlarge)

id Soapy stay in Zang's Hotel?
New information about Creede, Colorado 1892.

     I have always pondered the story that "Soapy" Smith, Bob Ford, Bat Masterson and "Poker Alice" Tubbs stayed at Zang's Hotel (now the Creede Hotel). The sign that once graced the front stated so, but there is no other provenance, and I have yet found where the information originated. Up until today I was under the impression that the hotel was built in late 1892-93 after Ford's death and Soapy had moved back to Denver. Photographs of the business district taken on June 8-9, 1892 show everything burnt to soil level. I figured that the hotel was built post June 8, 1892. There have been no advertisements, at least seen by me, of Zang's Hotel previous to the fire so I "assumed," and you know what happens when historians assume.   

Creede Hotel sign
Summer 1985
"Famous Guests, Soapy Smith," etc.
Author's collection

     Soapy and numerous other saloon and gaming house proprietors came to Creede as it was a silver rush boom-town that sprang up at the same time Denver was going through a reform to close down gambling in the capital. Soapy left Creede in April 1892 just as Denver's reform movment began to wane. The fire of June 5, 1892 settle the question for most of the others. There is a June 1892 newspaper interview of Soapy, after the fire in which he said he was going to rebuild in Creede, but there is no provenance. If he did return, and Zang's was built within 2-3 weeks of the fire, then it is possible that Soapy stayed there, but again, there is no provenance. All we got is the word of the hotel.

(formerly known as Zang's Hotel)
Summer 1985
Author's collection
 (Click image to enlarge)

Though I searched the pages of The Candle (Creede) for 1892 Kandra Payne of Creede found something I missed! Kandra has organized a historical walking tour/ghost tour as part of the 125th-anniversary celebration of Creede's founding and silver rush. As of now this one-night event will most likely be the evening of June 17, 2017.

Zang's to rebuild on same lot
The Candle
Creede, Colorado
July 5, 1892

     So now we know that Zang's had another structure, hotel, on the same lot prior to the June 5, 1892 fire, but because there appears to be no advertisements for a Zang's Hotel previous to the fire I will guess that a possible reason is that it was not called "Zang's." Considering that Zang's was built on the same lot as the original hotel, I think the next step would be to compare the location before and after the fire, to see if a hotel can be located.
    Soapy Smith could indeed have possibly stayed at Mr and Mrs Zang's hotel prior to the fire, but there still remains a lack of provenance.

Creede Hotel, 1985
stairway to five rooms upstairs
author's collection

"He opposed bloodshed, but as violence came with the people and places he did business with, it frequently could not be avoided. Tough and treacherous men filled out the roster of Soap Gang members for these occasions."
Alias Soapy Smith, p. 15


1502: Christopher Columbus leaves Spain for his final trip to the Western Hemisphere.
1754: The first newspaper cartoon in America shows a divided snake "Join or die" in The Pennsylvania Gazette.
1785: Joseph Bramah patents the beer-pump handle.
1825: The Chatham Theatre opens in New York City. It is the first gas-lit theater in the U.S.
1879: Construction begins on Fort Assiniboine, south of Havre, Montana Territory.
1891: The Dalton Gang stopped and robbed the Guthrie-Wichita train at Wharton (now Perry), Oklahoma. A station agent was shot dead as he tried to telegraph about the robbery.

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