Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Denver: Haunted Brown Palace

In 1880 Henry Cordes Brown walked into what was considered one of Denver, Colorado’s premier hotels, the Winsor. To Brown's surprise, he was not allowed to stay because he was dressed in cowboy attire. 

Right then and there Brown decided to build his own hotel. 

Twenty years before, he and his family had left their home in Ohio—planning to strike it rich in California. When they traveled through Denver, Brown’s wife however announced that she liked the area and wanted to stay.

The Browns homesteaded 16t0 acres of land that is now apart of Denver’s Capitol Hill area. Brown, a shrewd
businessman, developed his property into a thriving palatial Brownstone neighborhood in the growing city. 

He made a fortune from this real estate venture, but in 1877 during the economic crisis, he lost most of it. But being an enterprising man, he was able to recover his fortune quickly. 

On the day he walked into the Winsor Hotel he was worth five million dollars—he was the richest man in Colorado.

Brown became determined to outdo the Winsor. He commissioned an architect, Frank E. Edbrooke to design his new hotel. 

The Brown Palace was completed in 1892 at the cost of 1.8 million dollars—a considerable sum for the time. His new hotel was placed on a triangular lot, its exterior walls made of Colorado granite and Arizona sandstone. 

Brown had James Whitehouse a sculptor, hand-carve native Rocky Mountain animals. These stone medallions can be seen between the windows on the seventh floor.

The interior of the Brown Palace was the first hotel to have an atrium lobby. Its gridiron balconies raise eight floors above the ground. Presiding over this view is a stain-glass ceiling. 

The lobby is adorned with imported onyx and marble. The eighth-floor grand ballroom is graced with furnishings worth over $40,000. This hotel has been continuously open for over a century—even during renovations.

In its history the Brown Palace has seen numerous celebrities, presidents, and rocks stars--including the Beatles who stayed at the hotel in 1964. 

The Palace was raided during Prohibition and at one time had a tunnel that led across the street to a building that housed a gambling den and brothel. The lobby even has hosted champion prize bulls. 

The Palace also has its share of ghosts.

One ghost that haunts the hotel is that of a female socialite who lived in Room 904 from 1940 till 1955. The hotel’s upper floors once were used as long-term apartments. 

It is stated that this ghost became active only after the management began to give tours. On these tours, visitors were regaled with her tragic tale of lost love and heartbreak. This evidently stirred her up. 

The hotel lobby switchboard started to get calls from Room 904—only static was heard on the other end. What was even more odd about this was that Room 904 was undergoing renovations at this time, so the electricity and phone lines in the room were disconnected. 

Once the hotel’s tour stopped telling her story the phone calls ceased.

The Palace at one time hosted music in the San Marcos Room where big bands entertained guests. Today this room has been converted into a dining room. Late one night after this room closed, an employee heard strange sounds coming from inside.

When he went to investigate he was shocked to see a string quartet dressed in formal wear tuning their instruments. He told the group, which appeared normal that they were not allowed in the room. 

One member reassured him not to worry—for they lived in the hotel. Shocked, this young man then saw these musicians just vanish.

One service the hotel provides is an office where guests can buy plane tickets, print boarding passes, etc. 

In the past, this same office was used for train tickets. On more than one occasion, witnesses have seen a man dressed in an old-fashioned train conductors uniform in this area. A witness saw this ghost turn and walk through an office wall.

Other ghosts spotted at the Palace include: a uniformed waiter that has been seen on a service elevator, laughing children who are heard and seen running through the hotel’s halls and curiously a baby is heard crying in the hotel’s boiler room.

In the early 1980s, I stayed at the Brown Palace. One morning as my stepmother and I approached an elevator, the doors began to close. Out of nowhere, a chivalrous cowboy visiting from Wyoming stopped the doors with his boot, doffed his cowboy hat and forcefully held the doors open for us. 

At the time I thought this was nice but unnecessary but now knowing the hotel’s history, I believe Henry Brown would have liked this.

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