Time was not kind to the old Star Hotel. Once a boarding house for miners, in the early days after the opening of the resort when I was living in Park City and running a photo business and poster shop on Main Street, it was a ski hotel with dormitories and communal bathrooms upstairs. Not too long ago, one of my favorite eateries was downstairs, Carlene’s, famous for her slow-roasted turkey sandwiches. 

Exterior of Big Dipper and The Star Bar, home of the former Star Hotel

Architects from Elliott Workgroup were called in to update the building, and as architect Bryan Markkanen recounts, when they investigated, they found there wasn’t much holding it up structurally. The building couldn’t be saved. The siding and chimney materials were set aside for reuse. The redesign recalls the street presence of the original with the arches from its 1970s update and the balconies that have always been a favorite spot to sit and watch the Main Street parades. From Elliott Workgroup, Markkanen is credited with the architecture, and Tricia Janes assisted with the interiors. Brassey Construction, Park City, built the new building. 

Interior of Big Dipper

Downstairs, the once low-ceilinged eatery is now the Big Dipper, an upbeat contemporary sandwich and coffee shop that welcomes guests with the same friendliness as before, but it has a much higher ceiling. (Before, anyone over 5-foot-6 had to crouch down or would encounter the ceiling with their heads.) Pictures on the wall recollect the restaurant’s history and people come in and tell the staff their stories. The menu honors the past with a turkey sandwich that I’m eager to try on a return visit. 

Interior of The Star Bar

Upstairs is The Star Bar. I photographed it as it was posed for opening with a long bar and seating to suit any sized group. 

The new building’s high-tech heating and cooling system constantly replenishes fresh air at the appropriate temperature.

The upper level has a brighter look through ceiling and lighting treatments for its function as a reception space. It has a full bar, as well, at the far end and to the right. 

On both the middle and top levels, The Star Bar has outdoor patio spaces for sitting out in Park City’s exquisite summer days and starry evenings. 

I am certain that preserving Park City’s historical past is a difficult balance to achieve. But as someone who has lived in and tried to run a business out of mining-era buildings before they have been updated, I can advocate for the comfort and livability that the building community is achieving while working with preservationists. 

Read more of Scot Zimmerman’s Photo Fridays.

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