In 1930 Chuck & Elsie Clayton bought an old school house and moved it to this location. His sister, Opal, was to live there many years. In 1931 they purchased land adjacent to Opal’s house. There was an old building on the property which the Claytons turned into a hamburger stand. A few years later Chuck & Elsie enlarged the stand with recycled material from a building they tore down. The cost was twenty dollars. Clayton Café was a family oriented business, serving both as a school and a Trailways bus stop. In 1035 the Texaco gas station was added and the café secured a liquor license and became known as Claytons Café and Bar. The café had two sections: the bar was the south part from the poolroom to the beam; the dining room went from the beam to the north wall where the smoker’s door is. The gas station or “oil room” was where the back pool table is now. The café served locals as well as many travelers. I-70 did not exist and Hwy 40 was a main route to California and Utah. Elsie was famous for her homemade pies and supplied President Eisenhower with her legendary cherry pies when he came to town.
The Claytons sold the café to Bob & Carol Wilde in 1971. Bob & Carol in turn sold the café to Sherry Summers in 1973. The restaurant was called the Fraser Bar & Café. Sherry tried to make the bar into the first topless place in Grand County. Opposition was hard and petitions flew around the town. That idea never came to pass.
Sandra Gantz Miller and John Gantz purchased the business in 1977 and did major remodeling. They gutted the building and made the restaurant and bar one room. They rebuilt the bar as it is today. They put in the tin ceiling above the bar and used red wall paper with a black flocking to give the place a Victorian feel. They ran the place mainly as a bar, with food being secondary. They christened their new business The Crooked Creek Saloon.
In 1983 Tim Kenny and Mike Winey bought what is now the back dining room and the salon. A year later they bought The Crooked Creek Saloon from Sandra and John. They joined the two buildings. Tim and Mike reopened The Creek in 1984. Their partnership prospered for the next 17 years. Tim’s wife Jill was responsible for establishing the beautiful garden located next to the patio and the main dining room. They also added the many historic photos that are still displayed on the walls throughout the establishment.
The summer of 2002 brought David & Lisa Pratt to The Creek. David & Lisa have enjoyed hosting the many long time local patrons of The Creek. They have strived to offer quality food at a reasonable price. They are very proud to have many visitors that keep coming back for the local flavor and historic atmosphere.
November 4, 2008 was the beginning of The Creekside Eatery, the sister of The Crooked Creek Saloon. Toni and Scott Hallgren purchased the business. Toni is fulfilling her dream of returning to the mountains she loves so much. Her vision can be seen in the remodel of both dining rooms: The Sports Bar and the elegance of the back dining room. The saloon will remain the same, Toni and Scott are committed to maintaining the history of The Crooked Creek Saloon, a local icon. The many historic photos will always grace the walls of the saloon. Toni’s passion for music has brought musical talent back to The Creek. Scott’s dedication to health is instrumental in developing healthy menu options. Their next big project is to bring the garden back to its former glory. We have started recycling again at The Creek because Scott and Toni are dedicated to preserving the environment. Both Toni and Scott are committed to making The Crooked Creek Saloon and Creekside Eatery the heart and pulse of Fraser.
An Introduction to the Habitués who Haunt our Bar
The question most frequently asked by visitors to The Crooked Creek Saloon is the identity of the woman in red seductively reclining above the entrance to the bar. Her name is Rosie- a woman of distinguished character, possessed with a spirited appreciation for life. Legend has it that Rosie, daughter of some of the valley’s first homesteaders, turned to practicing the world`s oldest profession after the death of her parents in the flu epidemic of 1898. An enterprising sort. Rosie son opened her own dance hall and saloon and quickly developed a reputation among the railroad workers and loggers as a first class madam. While history (and the ski area) have chosen to remember Mary Jane as the valley’s most famous working girl, discerning patrons from that time would surely argue that Rosie was without peer.
Calamity struck however, in the form of the Great Blizzard of ’09. Trapped inside her saloon by the mounting drifts, Rosie, her girls, and several stranded customers inadvertently caught the building on fire while stoking the furnace in an attempt to stave off the merciless cold for which Fraser is still very much famous. In the darkness, howling wind, and confusion of the fire, the tavern burned entirely to the ground. When the blizzard subsided, local townspeople, keen on burying the memory of their most disreputable establishment, quickly removed the remains of the building. To this day, the exact identities of those who perished with Rosie are still clouded in mystery.
But true to the old saying “You can’t keep a good spirit down”, The Crooked Creek Saloon was built a quarter of a century later on the very site of Rosie’s former domicile. From the earliest moments of the new saloon’s existence, patrons and staff alike have claimed to see ghostly apparitions during the late night hours and particularly when the wind blows and the temperature drops. Near the stove in the back dining room, close to where most of the spectral sightings have occurred, hangs what is purportedly the only known picture of Rosie. Hidden away for years in the attic of the house once belonging to one of Rosie’s most frequent admirers, the picture was only recently discovered and graciously donated to the saloon.
Whether the phantasms which frequent the back rooms of the bar are really the spirits of Rosie and those who perished with her or merely the delusions of generations of over-imbibers, what is certainly true is that the descendants of some of the valley’s original homesteaders still haunt the bar at The Crooked Creek Saloon – a place where visitors can enjoy a few laughs, eat till it hurts, and drink till it feels better. Just as Rosie would have wanted!