DENVER'S HISTORIC HOTELS
Denver’s beginnings were as a rough and ragged frontier town. But thanks to its advantageous central location between the east and west coast and a late-19th century silver rush, the city boomed in a big way, soon becoming the United States’ third-largest city in the west, after San Francisco and Omaha. With such rapid growth came a steady stream of well-to-do travelers who required first-class lodgings. While many of the resulting hotels of the era are no longer standing, a few have survived and thrived, providing a glimpse into Denver’s golden age.
The Oxford Hotel
1600 17th St., Denver
Opening in 1891, the lower downtown-based Oxford Hotel stands as Denver’s oldest still-in-operation hotel. Built by local brewer Adolph Zang, the Oxford set new standards for Gilded Age opulence, with fine oak furnishings, silver chandeliers and frescoed walls adorning every inch of the hotel. It was also outfitted with the latest technological gadgets, including elevators, steam heating, electric and gas lighting and bathrooms with separate water closets — a real luxury at the time. In the 1920s, the Oxford was given an Art Deco-style makeover by architect Charles Jaka, who added the famous Cruise Room, modeled after a lounge on the Queen Mary.
Over the decades, LoDo went through a series of changes, and the Oxford changed with it. However, in 1979, Charles Callaway purchased the hotel with the intent or restoring it to its former glories. By consulting the original blueprints and studying vintage photographs, as well as performing some painstaking structural surgery at a cost of $12 million, Callaway and the Denver architecture firm William Muchow & Associates succeeded in bringing the Oxford back to life. Today, it’s a cherished part of Denver’s downtown landscape, as well as one of the city’s most popular luxury hotels.
The Brown Palace
321 17th St., Denver
After then-unheard of construction costs of $1.6 million, downtown Denver’s Brown Palace opened its doors on August 12th, 1892 — and hasn’t closed them for a single moment since. This luxurious four-star hotel remains one of the city’s crown jewels today with its stunning stained glass atrium lobby, extravagant suites and four extraordinary dining venues.
The Brown Palace was the brainchild of real estate mogul Henry Cordes Brown, who saw the need for an upscale hotel that would cater to the increasing number of travelers passing through Denver on their way east or west. He selected the triangular plot of land at the corners of Broadway, Tremont and 17th St. (where he had previously grazed his cow) as the site of his masterpiece, and hired renowned architect Frank E. Edbrooke to design the building. Working in the Italian Renaissance style and using Colorado red granite and Arizona sandstone for the exterior, Edbrooke and his crew began construction on the Brown Palace in 1888.
When the hotel was finally completed four years later, guests — who originally paid the princely sum of $3-$5 a night — were amazed by the results. This wasn’t a typical Wild West stopover; in terms of amenities, style and elegance, the Brown Palace could hold its own with any luxury hotel in New York City, Boston or Europe. Over the years, it became Denver’s “go-to” hotel for the rich and famous, hosting numerous presidents, various kings and royalty, the “unsinkable” Molly Brown and the Beatles.
The Patterson Historic Inn
420 E. 11th Ave., Denver
A stately and distinguished National Landmark, the Patterson Inn is situated on a quarter acre of exquisitely landscaped grounds in the heart of one of Denver’s original high-end neighborhoods -- "Millionaire's Row." The reddish-orange, Manitou sandstone Chateauesque building was constructed in 1891. Thomas B. Croke, a merchant and experimental plant breeder who later served as a state senator, commissioned the house and lived there until he sold the property to Thomas M. Patterson in 1892. Patterson served as a territorial delegate to Congress in 1874, a U.S. Congressman in 1877-79, U.S. Senator from 1901 to 1907, and edited and published the Rocky Mountain News until 1913. From hand-carved oak stairway, all the way down to the exquisite crown moldings and beautifully restored hardwood floors, this regal mansion is the ideal mix of historic intricacy and modern convenience.
As you explore Denver, you’ll note the abundance of Victorian mansions that line the streets of several neighborhoods. Many of these mansions have been updated and converted into lovely bed & breakfasts, each with their own unique historical charm.
- The Capitol Hill Mansion Bed & Breakfast Inn (www.capitolhillmansion.com, 1207 Pennsylvania St., 800-839-9329), a Richardson Romanesque Victorian-style building, was erected in 1891 and boasts a striking turret. Book the Shooting Star Balcony Room for a private balcony with a breathtaking view of the Rockies.
- The Castle Marne Historic Bed & Breakfast (www.castlemarne.com, 1572 Race St., 303-331-0621) is one of Denver’s grandest urban inns, built in 1889 by famed eccentric architect William Lang. Beautiful stained glass accents and ornate woodwork highlight this gem.
- Built around the turn of the century, the Lumber Baron Inn & Gardens (www.lumberbaron.com, 2555 W. 37th Ave., 303-477-8205) was lovingly restored as a B&B in the early 1990s and includes a marvelous third-floor ballroom.
Old Buildings, New Hotels
Instead of tearing down some of downtown Denver's classic but no longer in use buildings, several hotel companies have had the foresight to convert them into upscale places of lodging. The Magnolia Hotel (www.magnoliahoteldenver.com, 818 17th St., 303-607-9000) is located in the First National Bank/American National Bank building, constructed in the early 20th century and famous for being one of Denver's first skyscrapers. The Downtown Courtyard by Marriott (http://marriott.com/dencd, 934 16th St., 303-571-1114) occupies the Tritch/Joslin Dry Goods Building, erected in 1887 and formerly the home of the expansive Goslin Department Store. The transformation of the Hotel Monaco (www.hotelmonaco.com, 1717 Champa St., 303-296-1717) involved renovating two adjacent historical buildings, the 1917 Railway Exchange building and the 1937 Art Moderne Title Building. The Hotel Teatro (www.hotelteatro.com, 1100 14th St., 303-228-1100) occupies the 1911 Denver Tramway Building and was revamped in 1997.