The World’s Largest Key Collection, Estes Park, Colorado

This photograph shows part of The Baldpate Inn Key Collection, which is thought to be the world’s largest key collection. The Baldpate Inn is south of Estes Park, Colorado.

Friends gave us a list of six restaurants we should try in the Estes Park, Colorado, area during our too-brief visit this summer. One restaurant on the list was The Baldpate Inn, which was described as “a soup and salad bar and great desserts.” Wow, was that description inadequate! I love quaint, historic, charming, quirky and unexpected. The Baldpate Inn was all that. Plus, the food was great. My grandparents ran a hotel in Sturgis, South Dakota, built by my great grandparents, which we often visited, so I have a great fondness for old hotels and inns.

The Baldpate Inn, built in 1917, is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Inn is seven miles south of Estes Park, Colorado.


The Baldpate Inn, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is the home of the World’s Largest Key Collection. The inn also attracts as many hummingbirds as it does diners. Hummingbird feeders are hung outside of the dining porch as well as on other porches at the inn. I love hummingbirds and was lucky enough to be seated next a feeder, which was mobbed. Hummingbirds are territorial, but these hummingbirds made temporary peace as they dined.

A hummingbird visits a feeder outside the dining porch of The Baldpate Inn, seven miles south of Estes Park, Colorado.

We wouldn’t have searched very hard for The Baldpate Inn, because it was just a soup and salad bar, after all, but fortunately we happened to drive by the sign to the inn on our way back on Highway 7 to Estes Park from Brainard Lake. The Baldpate Inn, built in 1917, is also a bed and breakfast. The inn is built from hand-hewn timber from the property, so the inn has a rustic mountain ambiance. After the delicious lunch, we ordered rhubarb pie with ice cream for dessert. We usually don’t order dessert, but we wanted to linger a little longer to watch the hummingbirds and admire the mountain view. (I love home made rhubarb pie, so it was no hardship.)

From The Baldpate Inn website: “The Inn was named after the mystery novel, SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE by Earl Derr Biggers, who upon visiting the property stated that the inn was so similar to the heretofore “imaginary” Baldpate Inn, that the Mace’s hotel would become the “real” Baldpate Inn. In the novel, each of seven visitors traveled to the closed-in-wintertime hotel, and thinks that he or she has the only key to the Inn. In keeping with the story line of the novel, the Mace family gave each visitor to the Inn their very own key.

Hummingbird feeders hang along the dining room porch of The Baldpate Inn. There’s a crowd of humans on the inside looking at the crowd of hummingbirds on the outside.

This tradition continued until the outbreak of World War I, when the price of metal became so expensive that the Owners were no longer able to give keys away. The loyal guests who returned yearly were so disappointed that they began their own tradition of bringing a key back to the inn with them each year. It is said that the competition between guests became so fierce to bring the best and most exotic each year that the Maces decided to begin a display of all the keys.

The Baldpate Inn’s photography collection features autographed photographs, taken by the original owners, of presidents and celebrities.

This was the beginning of the world’s largest key collection. The collection boasts over 20,000 keys including examples from the Pentagon, Westminster Abby, Mozart’s wine cellar, and even Frankenstein’s castle to name a few.”

In the dining room you can see The Baldpate Inn Photograph collection, which features autographed pictures of U.S. presidents (Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, George Bush), movie celebrities, (Lana Turner, Jean Harlow, Roy Rogers), captains of industry (Henry Ford, Randolph Hearst), folk heroes (Wild Bill Cody, Weston the Walker), and world renowned figures (Thomas Edison, Tetrazinni, Jack London).

The Baldpate Inn Dining Room.

These photographs are primarily the creative work of two of the Mace brothers Charles (one of the Inn’s original owners) and Stuart Mace, both professional photographers.

The next time we return to Northeast Colorado, I want to stay at The Baldpate Inn so that I can explore every nook and cranny, investigate the key collection more thoroughly, look at every photograph, enjoy the view, eat more pie, watch the hummingbirds, attend the plays in the outdoor theater and just hang out.

The Baldpate Inn Website.

Here is a small part of The Baldpate Inn Key Collection, the world’s Largest Key Collection.

A sign for theater productions is displayed on the porch of The Baldpate Inn. You can also see a hummingbird feeder. In cooperation with the Estes Park’s Fine Arts Guild of the Rockies, The Baldpate Inn presented live theater perfomances of two romantic comedy stage plays this summer.

The Baldpate Inn library looks like a cozy place to read in the cool mountain mornings and evenings. Stone fireplaces keep the inn pleasantly toasty.

The Baldpate Inn Dining Porch.

Hummingbirds are territorial, but they made temporary peace at this feeder at The Baldpate Inn, seven miles south of Estes Park, Colorado.

This giant key is part of The Baldpate Inn Key Collection, the world’s largest.

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8 Comments

Filed under History, Photography, Travel

8 responses to “The World’s Largest Key Collection, Estes Park, Colorado

  1. Anita Doll

    Sounds lovely. Reminds me of some of the grand camps in the Adirondacks.

  2. The key collections are interesting… but I love those hummingbirds more. ;) Never realized they have such long beaks.

  3. This is so cool. Should I bring a magnet so as to get a better look at all those keys? In this age of generica, it’s lovely to find a quirky place with so much history!

  4. I love all the shots, of course, but especially the hummingbirds. Were those taken through windows?

    Very interesting stuff. I feel as if I’ve been on another journey all courtesy of your blog. Thanks!

    Yes, the photos were taken through a window. The feeder was only a foot from my head beyond the window pane. I did open the window, but the hummingbirds were more shy without the “comfort” of the glass between us, so I closed it. The air was a little cool, so my fellow diners probably appreciated the closed window. I wish I were skilled enough to take photos to adjust for both the speed of the hummingbirds as well as the backlighting, because I had to lighten the photos. Some of the details and vibrancy of the birds were lost. The hummingbirds were so fascinating that I could barely eat my lunch. My luck at the chair I got, really the best one in the restaurant, was great. When we walked into the dining room, we didn’t even know there were hummingbirds to see. Cathy

  5. I love that place. I grew up not far from there.

    That’s a lovely area to grow up in! I’m so happy we found that place, an unexpected treat. Cathy

  6. Hi CS,
    Looks cool— I have a rather large half-chewed slipper collection, but……

  7. How is this 30 minutes from my home and I’ve never been? :) Thanks for the tip–when relatives arrive, I’ll have a plan.

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