Denver got its start as a rough and ragged frontier town.
But thanks to its prime 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.
Opened in 1891, The Oxford Hotel in LoDo 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, which was 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 of restoring it to its former glroy. 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 Denver architecture firm William Muchow & Associates succeeded in bringing The Oxford back to life. It is now a cherished part of Denver's downtown landscape near bustling Denver Union Station, and it features Urban Farmer restaurant and The Oxford Club, Spa & Salon.
After then-unheard-of construction costs of $1.6 million, downtown Denver's Brown Palace Hotel opened its doors on August 12, 1892. This luxurious four-star hotel remains one of the city's crown jewels today, with its stunning stained glass atrium lobby, extravagant suites and extraordinary dining venues. Don’t miss the popular afternoon tea or the chance to indulge in a luxurious spa treatment! During the winter, stop in to admire the festive holiday décor.
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 he 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 against any luxury hotel in New York City, Boston or Europe. Over the years, the 241-room landmark 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.
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 and breakfasts, each with its own unique historical charm.
The Patterson Inn was built in 1891 and is situated on a quarter acre of exquisitely landscaped grounds in the heart of one of Denver's original high-end neighborhoods known as "Millionaire's Row." From the 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.
A Richardson Romanesque Victorian-style building, the Capitol Hill Mansion 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.
CASTLE MARNE HISTORIC BED & BREAKFAST
Castle Marne 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.
THE LUMBER BARON INN & GARDENS
Built around the turn of the century, The Lumber Baron Inn & Gardens 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 converted them into upscale lodging.
Located within one of the most iconic buildings in Colorado, The Crawford Hotel is named for Denver urban preservationist Dana Crawford. The 112-room boutique hotel honors its home inside the historic Denver Union Station, which is open to the public and travelers alike 365 days a year. With an emphasis on Colorado craft, Union Station is home to many of Denver's hottest culinary icons and shop owners! Hotel guests also enjoy courtesy transportation within a two-mile radius in a Tesla.
Magnolia Hotel Denver is located in the First National Bank/American National Bank building, which was constructed in 1911 and is famous for being one of Denver's first skyscrapers. One of the city’s first boutique hotels, it underwent a major, multi-year renovation in 2019 that touched all spaces and created additional guest rooms. During the renovation, the original bank vault was uncovered behind a wall and now stands as a focal point in one of the meeting rooms.
Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center in the Colorado National Bank Building opened in June 2014 after extensive renovations. The original Colorado National Bank was constructed in 1915 with an interior and exterior of white marble that came from the same quarry as the marble used in the Lincoln Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The spectacular lobby is surrounded by huge, wall-size murals painted by local artist Allen Tupper True. Considered one of Colorado's premier native-born artists, True focused his work on Western subjects. The murals in the bank building depict the lives of American Indians on the plains before white people arrived. The massive lounge overlooks the lobby, which also features a full bar and meeting rooms constructed in the old bank vaults. The hotel's signature restaurant, range, offers cuisine that celebrates the cultural heritage and adventurous spirit of the American West, prepared with modern-day sophistication.
Courtyard by Marriott Denver Downtown occupies the Tritch/Joslin Dry Goods Building, designed by Denver architect Frank E. Edbrooke and erected in 1887. The hotel’s lobby and gathering spaces were renovated just a few years ago and reflect a modern vintage look that is a nod to both the present and the past. The building was home to the expansive Joslin Department Store for much of the 1900s.
The transformation of Hotel Monaco involved renovating two adjacent historical buildings: the 1917 Railway Exchange building and the 1928 Art Moderne Title Building. The Art Moderne was the first example of Art Deco architecture in Denver and one of the few of this style left in the city today. Both buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. This Kimpton hotel has undergone a total renovation in recent years and features a nightly wine hour and the popular Panzano restaurant on-site.
Hotel Teatro occupies the Denver Tramway Building, a Renaissance Revival structure that was built in 1911 and incorporated a modern steel skeleton in its design. After two years of restoring the building and transforming it into a boutique hotel, Hotel Teatro opened in 1999. More recently, the first floor of the property underwent a large-scale renovation. Not long after, the guest rooms were upgraded to reflect the main floor. Don’t miss dining downstairs at The Nickel, a name that pays homage to the space the restaurant now occupies, which was once used to collect fare from customers riding the streetcars. The price? A nickel, of course!