Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Brown Palace

The Brown Palace Hotel was built in 1892 and is Denver's second oldest operating hotel. It is located at 321 17th St. in downtown Denver.

The Brown Palace Hotel dates back to the boomtown period in Denver's history. The Denver railway spur to Laramie had been completed twenty years prior and the city itself was developing rapidly. People were flooding into the Front Range, many of them to take their chances as residents, but also, in steadily increasing numbers, as tourists.

The Brown Palace Hotel was built by Henry Cordes Brown, a carpenter turned real estate entrepreneur who had moved to Denver from Ohio in 1860.  When he settled in Denver Brown purchased a number of plots of real estate in the downtown area, generally being recognized as the primary homesteader of the Brown's Bluff or Capitol Hill area. Following his homesteading of what would become Capitol Hill, he shrewdly donated ten acres of his land to the State of Colorado as the site for the new capitol building. This act of charity worked out incredibly well for him; by donating the land for the state capitol Brown ensured that the rest of his land would increase in value almost immediately and he made a large fortune selling plots to Denver's nouveau riche who wanted to build mansions near the seat of state power.

With the fortune he made from real estate Brown decided to build a luxurious hotel and spa in downtown Denver.  One of the original plots of land that Brown had purchased was a small triangular piece of property at the intersection of 17th, Broadway, and Tremont. Originally used to graze his cow, Brown chose this piece of property as the site for his new hotel. Hiring architect Frank E. Edbrooke, Brown spared almost no expense in building his hotel.  Work began in 1888 and continued steadily for four years. Total costs for the hotel's construction were in excess of $1.6 million, a staggering sum at the time, and included red granite and sandstone from Colorado and Arizona, imported onyx for the atrium floor, the "Onyx Room" on the second floor, and the eight-floor ballroom, and $400,000 for furniture.

Fun Facts
  • The atrium lobby rises eight floors to a stained glass roof and every floor has a balcony lined with ornate iron railings and grillwork. Two of the grillwork panels are upside down and have been since the hotel was finished. The first was intended to be a craftsmen's statement regarding humanity's inability to attain perfection, while the second is said to be the action of a disgruntled builder.
  • The hotel was billed as Denver's second fireproof building, with no wood used in its construction. The walls are built of hollow bricks of fire retardant terra cotta.
  • The hotel derives all of its water from a privately owned artesian well located in its basement.
  • The hotel has never closed. It has been open continually, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, since August 12th, 1892. All renovations, restorations, and repairs have occurred while the hotel has been open for business.
  • Pets are welcome at the Brown Palace Hotel, and they receive complimentary treats and pet beds when they stay there with their owners.
  • Because of its triangular shape the Brown Palace Hotel is considered a Flatiron-style building, much like the Sentinel Building in San Francisco.
  • Frank E. Edbrooke, the architect who designed the Brown Palace Hotel, was responsible for designing many of Denver's historic sites, including the Masonic Temple Building and Central Presbyterian Church.
Getting There By Bike...
 I still have a shaky notion of how I get places by bike in downtown Denver. Usually I just head in the direction that I think I need to go and then check the map on my phone after I realize that I've gotten lost. This also means that I don't have a great list of bicycle friendly streets to speed around on and end up doing a lot of miles on the shoulder of busier roads.
I rode west on 18th St. after I had gotten lost in City Park. 18th St. basically dead ends at the Brown Palace Hotel, where the street merges onto Broadway. I haven't ridden to it from the other side, through the middle of downtown Denver, so I don't think I'm qualified to give a great route if you're coming from that side.
A bonus stop in the area would be Trinity United Methodist Church, which is almost directly across the street from the Brown Palace Hotel.

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