We go way back. The distinctive historic brick commercial structure at the southeast corner of Colorado Avenue and Pine Street in downtown Telluride that has been home to the Last Dollar Saloon for over 40 years was built by L.L. Nunn in 1899. This the geographic center of the Town of Telluride - all Town roads go North, South, East and West of this intersection.
On Saturday, August 19th, 1899, the Telluride Daily Journal reported on the Grand Opening of the "Fashion Clothing Company" as the first occupant of the prime corner location, saying "The room that they will occupy in the new brick block is one of the most commodious and handsome storerooms in all of Telluride, and the stock now being received is probably one of the largest and finest ever place on sale in this section of the state. A feature of this house will the merchant tailoring department where gentlemen may get wearing apparel that will fit, and made up in the latest styles."
By 1903 the "National Club" saloon had taken over and quickly became one of the best known drinking and "sporting" establishments on Telluride's bustling Main Street. The National Club was home to the finest liquors and cigars, dancing girls, poker and roulette tables, and an ongoing billiards tournament whose progress was closely monitored by the newspapers of the time. In an avant-garde technological achievement, the National Club installed a telegraph to receive baseball scores and results of boxing matches from places far away. The May 7, 1903 Telluride Journal reported that "The National Club now receives daily the scores of the ball games played by the National, American and Western leagues. The same are posted every afternoon on the bulletin board of that popular house and consequently those interested in the national game do not have to wait until the next day to get the results of the different games. On November 39, 1906 the papers reported that "the National Club recently installed numerous electric lamps which makes this popular brightly lighted place brighter than ever."
This was not a saloon for the meek. On January 12, 1905 papers reported that "a bunch of Finns started a rough house at the National Club Saturday night and were over matched by the house employees and rendered docile." The January 9, 1908 Telluride Journal broke the story of a hold-up at the National Club by a disgruntled former National Club employee who worked as a day shift roulette dealer - "This morning between 7 and 8 o'clock John Gehring, a gambler, who had been playing cards in the National Club and lost all he had - something like $40 - held up Fred Porter at the point of a gun and took the bank roll away from him, getting nearly $300 in cash. He then turned his back and walked leisurely out of the saloon as if nothing had happened, went to his home on West Pacific Avenue, threw the gun with which he did the job on the floor, and told his wife he had done something desperate for which the people might hang him. Gehring is a fairly well educated man, and is learned enough and talented enough to earn a living at something else besides gambling, but he has always been a peculiar fellow. The wires have been used in all directions to catch him and officers are hunting for him, and have been since he held up the place, but he has not yet been apprehended."
The newspapers also spoke in glowing words about the National Restaurant, who occupied (and as of 2019 now occupies again!) the south half of this long building. The National Restaurant served some of the finest meals in Colorado at the time, open 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. With the assistance of the railroad cards arriving daily into Telluride, the National Restaurant served Squabs, Teal Ducks, Corn Fed Beef, Spring Chickens, Soft Shell Crab, Shad Roe, Black Bass, Spanish Mackerel, Green Lobsters, and a dozen other sorts of fish. The September 20, 1901 edition of the Telluride Journal said "The best place in the city to eat oysters and shellfish is at the National Restaurant. The family Sunday dinner at 5pm is the best in the city. You can get anything there that you can in Denver, at any minute in the twenty four hours."
The National Club continued on until the onset of Prohibition when it was occupied by the Golden Rule General Store. Rumors were (likely true) that the Golden Rule carried on bootlegging activity during these unpopular "drier" years in Telluride's history. After decades of dormancy, in the 1960's this location became home to "Peterson's Complete Automotive Garage" which sold Texaco gas and oil, tires, batteries, and other hardware. In the early 1970's the "Forgotten Works" stained glass company and "Hole in the Wall Pizza" called this corner home. In the summer of 1978, James Fitzpatrick and James "Catfish" Hunter opened the Last Dollar Saloon which they operated for 3 infamous decades until their retirement in 2007.
By 2018, after 119 years of service, this old saloon was in need of a rest and some love. A thoughtful renovation retained its critical historic elements - the original wood floor, the brick walls, the pressed tin ceiling - while bringing utility services and safety elements up to today's standards.
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