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. The property even has its own resident historian, Julia Kanellos, whose job is to research, archive and share the many legendary stories that have shaped the hotel's eclectic past.
On a tour of the hotel, for example, Ms. Kanellos will point out a portion of dented fireplace mantel in the Eisenhower Suite. 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.
From its start in 1892, 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. In keeping up with the times, all rooms have complimentary high-speed Internet access, and 33 Executive Staterooms are designed for business travelers, with printer/copier/fax machines and cordless telephones. (Complimentary wireless Internet access is available in the lobby.) Along with the Eisenhower Suite, there are two other presidential suites, named for the Chiefs of Staff who slept there-Roosevelt and Reagan.
The Brown Palace 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 Roasted Rack of Colorado Lamb. 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.
its ability to take you back in time, the hotel is prepared
to meet the needs of the 21st-century. It has a well-equipped
fitness center, pet-friendly amenities and advanced meeting
facilities that include webcasting, videoconferencing
and simultaneous Internet access for up to 500. With one
foot planted firmly in the past, and the other striding
fearlessly into the future, the Brown Palace will no doubt
keep Mile High City historians busy for years to come.
Photos Courtesy of The Brown Palace Hotel & Spa, Autograph Collection