The Tookers love Nucla. It’s evident in their latest passion-project-turned-business, the Vestal House. The historic home sat empty on Main Street for over 40 years before local couple Aimee and Chris Tooker purchased it in 2017.
The Vestal House, which recently opened in the West End, features four bedrooms, each with different themes, and a farmhouse-inspired kitchen common area called the Beehive. The names of the rooms — Lodge, Visionaries, Uravan and Tabeguache — all honor the area’s history, as Aimee Tooker’s mother and innkeeper, Sharon Johannsen, is actively involved with the Rimrocker Historical Society of Western Colorado.
“The Vestal House celebrates the history and culture of our area and educates our guests about our heritage. The theme of each room showcases a moment in time for the West End,” Aimee Tooker said. “The Tabeguache Band of the Ute Indians that lived here named it ‘The place where the snow melts first.’ Then there’s the Colorado Cooperative Company with the water canal that took nine years to dig, mostly by hand, 18 miles from the San Miguel River to Nucla and the agricultural community with beginnings of the Town of Nucla, and preserving our loving memories of the Town of Uravan and our families that lived and worked there. The Lodge room celebrates our love of the outdoors. We have a beautiful backyard to play and recreate in and we have witnessed many spectacular photographic moments that we share with our guests in this room.”
The West End, particularly Nucla-Naturita, is the midway point of the 160-mile Rimrocker Trail between Montrose and Moab, and the area annually attracts outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy mountain biking, hiking or motorized fun. Aimee Tooker knows how busy it gets, but places to stay seemed to be lacking, and the Vestal House was the perfect location for a bed and breakfast.
“The need for accommodations in the Town of Nucla was apparent with the hotel in Naturita increasingly booked and the vacation homes for rent in the area were constantly being utilized,” she said. “West End Trails Alliance has mapped and added signage to their non-motorized trails with the newest being right outside the town. Guests can easily walk or bike to it from the Vestal House. The West End has something for everyone, whether you are a history buff, rock hound, or motorized or non-motorized rider. Because this is the place where the snow melts first, we get to play outside before any other area.”
While they didn’t have a hard deadline for their grand opening, the COVID-19 pandemic did delay it a bit, but the Tooker family used it as an opportunity to reset and relax for a moment.
“We took our time with this project from the very beginning. There was a lot of clean-up to do before we could even get started,” Aimee Tooker said. “ … The pandemic gave us the opportunity to pause and to reflect. Like others, our busy work lives, schedules and deadlines went right out the window. Spending time with our kids and being grateful for what we were blessed with was the most important thing.”
The community has supported their efforts from the very beginning, she added, which has meant a lot. She also enjoys hearing peoples’ memories of the building.
“The Vestal House property is one of the oldest houses in the Town of Nucla and sits between 4th and 5th streets on Main. You couldn't go to the grocery store or the phone company without looking at it, and it was falling apart and so sad,” she said. “People have stopped by and told us what they remember about it, and during the clean-up we have uncovered lots of ‘treasures,’ which will be on display when the Craftsman house is complete.”
Yes, the Vestal House property still has more to offer, as another house will feature more rooms. There are plans for a bathhouse and laundromat as well. The Apple Core Project also donated four apple trees that were grafted from local heirloom apple trees.
“The renovation on the historic Craftsman house is still ongoing. There will be two more rooms with a shared bath and an event space in the home,” Aimee Tooker said. “We will have room for tent sites in our soon-to-be beautiful yard. A bathhouse and laundromat construction is underway. We are working on plans for murals and interpretive signage that showcase the automobile antics of Lincoln Vestal and the influence he had on the town of Nucla and the Colorado Cooperative Company.
“Sharon, my mother, has saved my grandmother's heirloom flowers over the years, and can't wait to get into the yard and start planting and landscaping. There are heirloom rose bushes, a honeysuckle and a lilac bush that we are babying back to life.”
Lincoln Vestal was one of Nucla’s founding fathers, as he was a manager for the ditch company, started the first hotel and the first telephone company in town, developed the first lighting system in Nucla, and opened the first automobile garage. He built his Nucla home for his wife, Amy, and his two daughters in 1907.
“He was just a real mover and shaker,” said Judy Pentz, program manager for the Rimrocker society, in a 2015 Daily Planet story.
The Vestal House was designated a Montrose County Historical Landmark in 2015.
For more information, visit vestalhousenucla.com.