The Brown Palace Hotel: Grandeur With a History

Written by on February 10, 2017 in CO History & Heritage - 2 Comments

The elegant and distinguished Brown Palace Hotel is nestled in the heart of Denver, Colorado against a backdrop of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains. Made famous by the impressive list of celebrity clientele, this historical landmark has been a popular place for diplomats and tourists alike, looking for more than just a night’s rest. The hotel still maintains its old time charm, traditional furnishings, and still adheres to the long-standing custom of serving afternoon tea. But there is much more to this hotel than the award-winning restaurants, the spa, and the four-star guest rooms; it is a true historical gem filled with legends from the past and stories of supernatural encounters.

In 1860, an Ohio man named Henry Cordes Brown was making his way to California to strike it rich in gold, when his party stopped by in Denver. Instantly his wife fell in love and said to him, “Mr. Brown, thou may press on to California if such be thy wish. I shall remain here.” Needless to say, they decided to make a permanent home in the Mile High City, Mr. Brown soon gathering and developing real estate in the area now known as Capitol Hill. Over the next several years, he became very wealthy in the real estate business, but almost lost his fortune in the economic panic of 1877. Luckily, he was shrewd and resourceful, and recovered his fortune and by 1880 he was worth almost 5 million dollars, making him one of the richest men in Colorado.

The story goes that in 1887, Brown was denied entry into one of Denver’s most elegant hotels, the Windsor Hotel, because of his cowboy attire. In an attempt to outdo the Windsor, he then decided to build his own establishment and the next year, hired architect Frank E. Edbrooke to design something nobody had seen before. Brown reportedly spent 1.6 million dollars on his luxury hotel, constructed from Colorado red granite and Arizona sandstone. He used only the finest onyx, marble, stained glass, and ironwork to fill the spacious lobby, ballrooms, and Grand Salon, and at it’s opening in 1892, the socialites of Denver were in awe.

But the building itself was not enough for Brown in his quest to build the ultimate in luxury. During it’s early days, the Brown palace provided fresh food from it’s own farms and dairies. It also generated it’s own electricity, incinerated it’s own garbage, and even included it’s own artesian well for water. There is a story that there was even a tunnel that connected the hotel with the Navarre building across the street, which was a brothel and gambling hall at the time. Before long, the Brown Palace was teeming with politicians, socialites, and millionaires, and was hailed as the most prestigious accommodations in Colorado. And since no wood was used to construct the floors or walls, it was also deemed fire proof.

Amidst the splendor of this historical building lie many stories of patrons of the past, although none of these “ghost stories” will be mentioned in today’s general hotel tour. The most well known legend is that of a Denver socialite named Louise Crawford Hill, who took up residence in room 904 from 1940 to 1955. She lived a conspicuous life of love, scandal, and loss, and upon her death, the hotel remodeled her suite and offered it as a guest room. Whenever the hotel historian offered tours of her room, telling of her numerous affairs, the switchboard would ring from room 904, despite the lack of a telephone. All that was heard on the other end was static. Soon the tours began skipping that particular suite, and the telephone calls suddenly stopped.

One of the juiciest tales of the Brown Palace is that of Isabel Springer and the fatal love triangle. Mrs. Springer was a lively young socialite, carrying out two affairs under her husband’s nose, one with a family friend Harold Francis “Frank” Henwood, and the other with a man named Sylvester “Tony” van Puhl. It all came to a head one evening in 1911 when the two men came to meet her at her Brown Palace residence, confronting each other in the downstairs tavern. Shots were fired and van Puhl, as well as an innocent bystander, was killed. Thus began the downward spiral of scandal that lead to the Springer’s divorce and Isabel’s fleeing to New York City, where she died a penniless prostitute at the age of 37.

Another much less heard story is that of the “Suicide Room”, suite 635, in which a man, for no apparent reason, ended his life in the room’s bathtub. Since then, there have been several reported sightings of the man, still in the tub, as well as many requests by guests asking to be moved to another room. Several staff members at the Brown Palace also report seeing a fully uniformed railroad conductor walking around where the rail ticket office used to be, as well as waiters and an elevator man going about their former duties. One employee claims to have heard strange sounds one night coming from the dining room, called Ellyngton’s today, previously known as the San Marco Room. When he walked in, he saw a formally dressed string quartet practicing their music, and said, “You’re not supposed to be in here.” To which they replied, “Oh don’t worry about us. We live here.”

Today, the Brown Palace has it’s own in-house historian, Debra Faulkner, who painstakingly archives all the people and events surrounding the hotel’s past. Daily tours are still offered, and if you book a private tour you may choose a theme: Ghost, Architectural, Romance, Presidential, or Ladies of the Brown. The rich history and architecture only add to the splendor of this amazing four-star hotel, now equipped with six restaurants, a spa, a flower shop, a bakery, and live music to enjoy with your cocktails or tea. Whether you come and visit here looking to be educated or pampered, the Brown Palace offers an unforgettable experience on the grandest scale.

Brown Palace Fun Facts
• The original artesian well is 720 feet below the lobby and still provides water for every faucet in the hotel.
• Four of the suite rooms are named for their past celebrity guests: the Beatles Suite, Teddy Roosevelt Suite, Reagan Suite, and Eisenhower Suite.
• In the 8-story atrium, two of the iron grillwork panels on the railing are upside down.
• The Brown Palace has never closed its doors for even one day since it’s opening.
For reservations, call: (303) 297-3111, or (800) 321-2599

Brown Palace Hotel in 1892

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2 Comments on "The Brown Palace Hotel: Grandeur With a History"

  1. Dale Haines November 1, 2010 at 12:46 pm ·

    is there a tunnel from the Brown Palace to Navarre?

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