Solarium International Hostel: Located in the heart of Fort Collins, Colorado

Sisters Chelsea and Elly Gressman were introduced to a life of travel by their mother, Sally Thoms at an early age. They quickly learned that the best education is found by exploring the world, immersion in other cultures and welcoming new adventures.  At the age of 19, Chelsea took off for Hawaii and stayed at her very first hostel, which sparked her desire to travel. Eventually, she headed to Australia and found herself in Africa in 2009. It wasn’t long before Elly followed suit and together, they embarked on one of the most important trips of their lives.

“Traveling has shaped and changed me in so many ways,” Elly says, “Things that mattered once no longer do and my idea of life and what it is about has completely changed. I feel a real sense of calmness and gratitude in my life and for the things I have.”

Driven by their passion for travel, the savvy Gressman sisters embraced the opportunity to buy The Atrium on Stuart Street in Fort Collins, Colorado. Along with their ever-supportive mother, Chelsea and Elly’s long-time dream to own a hostel came to fruition in 2014 with The Solarium International Hostel.

“When we bought the building, we weren’t sure exactly what it was going to end up being – all we knew was that it was beautiful and something we wanted to share with the world,” Elly says. “The more we thought about it and thought about what we love to do, it made sense to turn the space into a place for travelers to connect and enjoy. We chose a hostel over a hotel because we wanted to provide the same services that were given to us around the world.”

Throughout all of their many adventures – whether in Vietnam, England, India or Africa – the common thread was always the warm experiences they had staying at hostels. Elly and Chelsea would eat locally and truly immerse themselves in local culture, which is something they encourage travelers that stay with them to do. They also made new friends, learned about local traditions and gained a fresh perspective on the world.

The community-centered atmosphere and affordable prices of the international hostels made traveling a breeze. The Solarium International Hostel of Fort Collins strives to give international travelers the same opportunities. The Gressman sisters predict their hostel will become the premier tourist accommodations for travelers worldwide.


The History of Springwood (The Solarium Hostel)


In 1977, John and Lolly Clarke had a dream. They wanted to build a home/studio for their growing family and burgeoning photography business. The next two years consisted of finding and buying suitable property, designing the building and finally the construction.

The property they selected was a 1.5 acre site on East Stuart Street with Spring Creek flowing through the north portion of the land.  At the time, the stream looked more like a steep-sided irrigation ditch but a month of digging and moving dirt created a yard that allowed access to the water.  They built a bridge that provided access to the north portion of the land.

Lolly designed the house and they had a draftsman create construction documents.  They broke ground in the late summer of 1978.  Construction continued throughout the winter and into the spring of 1979.  John was the general contractor and with the help of some hard working builders — Harold Miller, Don and Dick Sampson — the building was completed, inspected and ready for occupancy on July 31, 1979. 

At first, what is now the atrium was not covered but the structure was reinforced so it could be added later.  After 3 years, the green house roof and north wall were added and the atrium was created.  John and Lolly found inspiration for that part of the building at the atrium dining room at LaFonda in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

They became well known for their photography and were in demand as workshop instructors and convention platform speakers.  They have made presentations to photographic organizations in 38 states and Canada. 

The atrium and grounds continue to be well maintained under new ownership and enjoyed by guests from all over the world. 

John is a Colorado native and is available to provide custom tours of the beautiful Colorado mountains.

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