by Betty Terry • Photography by Marcy Black Simpson
Georgetown, Colorado, has a colorful past, one might say. Brothers George and David Griffith founded the town in 1859 during the Pike’s Peak gold rush, and Georgetown experienced its greatest growth during the Colorado silver boom of the 1880s. At one time, this quaint Victorian town, nestled in the Rocky Mountains at 8,500 feet above sea level, boasted a population of 10,000. After the silver market crashed in the 1890s, the population dwindled to just 300. But with the growing popularity of skiing during the 1950s and ’60s, Georgetown reinvented itself as a tourist destination. Today it caters to summer hikers and winter skiers alike.
In Georgetown’s early days, its founding fathers had the foresight to establish a fire department with five firehouses, so the hastily built town never burned as did many other mining settlements of the day. Its graceful Victorian buildings survived into the 21st century and are now part of the Georgetown-Silver Plume Historic District. It’s a popular après ski watering hole for the thousands of skiers who pass through Georgetown on their way to one of the world-class ski resorts nearby—Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Copper Mountain, Breckenridge, Loveland, Mary Jane, and Winter Park.
Georgetown also has something for tea lovers. Those who wander down Rose Street in the historic district will find a surprise waiting for them—a charming Victorian tearoom, The Dusty Rose. The handsome Italianate building, built in 1875, already housed Rocky Mountain Miniatures gift shop when owner Jeannette Peterson decided to open The Dusty Rose in 2010. “Georgetown is a quaint Victorian town, and a Victorian tearoom fits in well here,” she explains. “My goal was to provide a fun atmosphere where people could enjoy a proper cup of tea spring, summer, fall, or winter.”
Guests of The Dusty Rose find a light and airy space inside, with walls painted mint green and dusty rose and tables set with lace tablecloths. They are invited to choose their own teacup from among Jeannette’s collection and, if they’re feeling fancy, to select a hat to wear during tea.
In addition to soups and sandwiches that are available all day à la carte, The Dusty Rose offers three versions of tea: a Petite Tea that includes samples of the tearoom’s most popular delicacies; an Afternoon Tea that leans more toward sweet treats than savories; and a hearty Victorian High Tea that provides an array of savories and sweets. Each comes with an endless pot of tea. “We’ll bring out as many pots of tea as you like,” Jeannette says. The Victorian High Tea comes with a little something extra you won’t find at other tearooms—a story of Georgetown’s checkered past told by the owner herself.
Dressed in period costume, Jeannette may share the history of two delicacies on The Dusty Rose’s menu—the deviled eggs, which were served on the narrow-gauge railroad that brought people to town in the 1890s, and the Black Walnut Cookies, which were featured at Georgetown’s Hotel de Paris during the municipality’s heyday. Or she may tell you the story of the tearoom’s resident spirit, Ann. (Don’t call her a ghost, Jeannette warns. That wouldn’t be polite.) Or she may provide historical background on the development of the Victorian age or an impromptu lesson on Victorian etiquette. Jeannette calls this heritage tourism. “People love the fact that they can come to The Dusty Rose for high tea, have delicious homemade food, and learn about the history of Georgetown and the surrounding area.”
Of course, opening a tearoom at an elevation of 8,500 feet is not without its challenges. “Flatlander” recipes for scones and other teatime treats don’t yield the same results when baked at high altitudes, Jeannette points out. So she has retested every one of her recipes and has made alterations for high-altitude baking. And when she ordered a 5-gallon boiler for the tearoom to provide hot water for making tea, Jeannette was surprised to discover that water boiled at 185° rather than 212°. In the thin air of Georgetown, it seems, the proper temperature for brewing a cup of Earl Grey is 185°.
The Dusty Rose offers 32 types of tea, including Georgetown Berry Medley, which is specially blended for the tearoom by Kitchen TLC. It’s a black tea mixed with the berries that grow wild around Georgetown— gooseberries, strawberries, cherries, chokecherries, and raspberries. “It’s by far our most popular tea,” Jeannette points out. “Hands down, it’s our best seller.” Of course, Georgetown Berry Medley and all the tearoom’s teas are available for purchase at the tearoom and through its website, dustyrosetearoom.com.
“When people come to Georgetown on vacation, they just want to have fun,” Jeannette says. “My customers tell me they love the ambiance of The Dusty Rose. They say it’s so cozy and so friendly. They love choosing their own teacup, and they love wearing hats at teatime. They love The Dusty Rose’s endless pot of tea. People can really relax here.”