“People were betting I wouldn’t make it one year because I came from Atlanta. They were watching very closely to see if I could handle [Georgetown’s harsh mountain] winter, I did just fine,” says Kevin Kuharic, now in his 13th year as Executive Director of the Hotel de Paris Museum in Georgetown, Colo.
Kuharic lives with husband Paul just a few blocks away from the museum. The Hotel de Paris is a part of him. “Paul and I are a childless couple, so our work is super important to us. Working harder every day to solve the problems we face and creating solutions and new ideas give us self-worth and value.”
Kevin does work hard—managing and promoting the museum, working with volunteers and visitors, setting future goals and especially fundraising. Georgetown is not a wealthy community and does not have the resources to support the museum. The hotel has to earn its income through gift shop sales, tours, donations, grants, rentals and special events.
Photo: Executive Director of the Hotel de Paris Museum, Kevin Kuharic in Louis Dupuy's personal library
And Kevin must plan the hotel’s future. Museum experiences are changing. “It’s no longer exclusively about the architecture and the furnishings, Kevin says. “Diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility have been guiding the work of the National Trust for Historic Preservation site for the last several years. When I go to conferences or other sites, I’m surprised how far ahead we are, and that feels really good” he says.
The Hotel de Paris (pronounced “Pare-is,” just as the miners did) was started by Frenchman Louis Dupuy in 1875. He ran the well-known hotel with showrooms for traveling salesman and a first-class French restaurant, until 1900. The hotel was a popular stopping place for well-heeled travelers visiting the gold-and silver mining town. It operated as a boarding house from 1903 to 1949. In 1954, The National Society of The Colonial Dames of Colorado acquired the 7,000 square-foot property and restored it as a museum. Today, the museum has 90 percent of its original furnishings. “We are known as the most complete parcel of early Colorado History,” says Kuharic.
“Over the years Louis’ story became sort of mythical. I was determined to tell his story accurately from the viewpoint of humanity. Instead of lifting him up on a pedestal, we actually focus on his challenges, mistakes and shortcomings”, says Kuharic. “No matter what gender, what religion, what financial class, what education level you may or may not have, you are likely to see yourself in his story. Because of that recrafting, I see a much different reaction from the public. My hope is not to abandon the stewardship of the museum but to engage the public further by connecting with them on a very personal level. And that’s through Louis’ story of failure and ultimate success.” says Kuharic.
Kevin still has work to do. He says “Fourteen years in, I feel like I have another 15 years of work ahead of me, in order to get this place where I think it can be.”