Antique furnishings, Old World service and a nine-story atrium topped with its original stained-glass ceiling.
Opened in 1892, this wedge-shaped sandstone and granite building has hosted princes and presidents, Hollywood actors and rock stars. It has been completely modernized over the years but always with an eye to preserving its history. The landmark Brown Palace serves Denver as more than simply a luxury hotel. It is an anchor, vital in helping the city hold its rich history in place. To share its past with the public, hotel tours are conducted that relate fascinating stories about the property and notorious figures who were guests.
On a tour of the hotel, for example, in the Eisenhower Suite, a portion of dented fireplace mantel will be pointed out. The president for whom the suite was named made the Brown Palace his summer headquarters when he was in office. One day, while he was practicing his golf swing in his room, something went astray — it was either the ball or the club, but the full truth never emerged. Ah, politicians! In any case, the marred mantel was subsequently framed and preserved as a souvenir.
It is the uninhibited flaunting of the hotel's quirky narrative that makes strolling its halls such fun. The staff has included a count turned bookkeeper and a WWII ace turned head waiter. And although the Brown Palace maintains the refined, traditional aura that welcomed such dignitaries as Sun Yat Sen and Winston Churchill, it is by no means stuck in a stodgy yesteryear. Not only was it chosen as the base for the 1997 World Summit of Eight, including former President Clinton and his wife, it played home away from home for the Spice Girls when they came to town.
The Brown Palace has been a magnet for praise. As well as being hailed for its opulent Italian Renaissance architecture, it was acclaimed for its floor plan. Thanks to its triangular shape, every guestroom is washed in sunlight at some point during each day. Inside, the eight-story atrium lobby is worthy of an Edith Wharton novel, with an abundance of burnished wood, wainscoting made of Mexican onyx, grand staircase and stained glass ceiling. It makes an impressive setting for afternoon tea or evening cocktail service, when tailor-made drinks are served from a roving martini cart.
The majority of the 241 guestrooms are decorated in a comfortable, residential-feeling, Victorian style. For something a little different, you can check into an Art Deco-influenced Deluxe Stateroom on the eighth and ninth floors. Among the many amenities is pure artesian water straight from the taps of the hotel's own well. Along with the Eisenhower Suite, there are two other presidential suites, named for the Chiefs of Staff who slept there — Roosevelt and Reagan.
The hotel feels like a tribute to sophisticated living, and it's no wonder that it is home to some of the finest dining in the region. The Palace Arms is both a restaurant and a museum. Its antique décor includes dueling pistols believed to have belonged to Napoleon and Josephine, and a silver centerpiece commissioned by the British royal family. The menu offers more than 900 wines, and the Continental cuisine reflects regional touches in such signature dishes as Colorado Braised Pork Cheeks. Every afternoon, English tea is served in the atrium lobby. Cigars and spirits can be taken in the Churchill Bar, and Ellyngton's is famed locally for its power breakfasts and Dom Perignon Sunday Brunch.
Other amenities include a 5,200-square-foot Spa at The Brown, a full-time concierge, flower shop, and advanced meeting facilities that include webcasting, videoconferencing and simultaneous Internet access for up to 500. Dogs are welcome and provided with doggie beds, bowls and special Bone-Apetit treats.
Despite its ability to take you back in time, the hotel is prepared to meet the needs of the 21st-century and will no doubt keep Mile High City historians busy for years to come.