Business or pleasure?
It’s a question I’ve always been asked whether I was traveling to London to work with a client or headed to Orlando for the happiest place on earth. And my response is always the same.
If you have a chance to visit someplace new, GET OUT AND EXPLORE IT. It doesn’t matter if you have a 7am meeting or you’re suffering jet lag. Take the opportunity (that may never come again) to get out and explore.
You don’t have to go far for your adventures either. In March of 2013, I had the chance to travel to Denver for the first time as a guest of Toyota for the National Highway Safety Conference. While I learned an amazing amount of things at the conference, I have to admit that I was secretly most excited about visiting Colorado.
The conference kept us busy with practically no free time. So I did the next best thing to exploring the city. I explored the hotel.
While chatting on Twitter with some Denver friends, they asked where I was staying and I replied “The Brown something or other.” And one replied, “Oh! Fancy schmancy!” And that got my attention.
Ever since I worked in the travel industry, I developed a taste for luxury hotels and so the words “fancy” and “schmancy” piqued my interest and I thought I better examine more closely.
Turns out, we were staying at the Brown Palace Hotel, touted as a Denver luxury hotel and spa and famous for once housing the Beatles during their stop in the mile high city. Turns out the hotel is known for lots of things.
Before even arriving, I had heard about the Beatles stay and had heard that the hotel was owned by the Unsinkable Molly Brown of Titanic fame. I had also heard that it was owned by a wealthy cowboy who had been turned away from luxury hotels a century ago and so he decided to build a grand hotel in the style of the old west.
What I do know is that the hotel was originally owned by Henry C. Brown who was a carpenter, contractor, and developer. I don’t think he was ever on the Titanic and judging from his photos, he wasn’t much of a cowboy either, although there was plenty about this hotel to remind me of 19th century Wild West elegance.
The room itself was pretty simple. Think of shades of white with brass accents, period-style carpeting, and iron forged light fixtures. The bathrooms carried a similar period flavor with simple black and white marble.
Notice the hotel logo etched in the glass shower door.
The rooms were nicely appoint but the real show of this hotel is outside of the rooms. In the hallways and the lobby, you can not only see and feel the history but you may also see and feel a few unexpected things.
Like the forged columns complete with intricate detail.
Or the intricately detailed iron works on the staircases on every floor.
And the hall lighting that stays true to the period in which the hotel was built.
It was when I headed to the lobby, though, that the story of the hotel came to life.
Once a completely self-sufficient hotel, you’ll still see historical remnants of how it served its high brow guests, from its only postal system to a water fountain sourcing directly from an artesian well hundreds of feet below the hotel.
After looking at some of the details, I headed to the lobby for some of the historical artifacts on display. I distracted by the dark tones and rich woods found in the lounge area.
But it’s the legends that always make historic buildings so interesting. And who better to tell the tall tales but the staff of the hotel.
Matt was one of the hotel staff who was only too happy to regale me with stories of celebrities and famous guests. But I wanted to know the good stuff. Because surely a hotel like this, with such a colorful history, must be haunted. He did relay one good story:
The top floors of the hotel were actually offered as apartments to wealthy residents. One such resident was a socialite who lived in room 904 from 1940 to 1955. On a tour of the hotel, a guide mentioned the story of her life and heartbreak over a lost love. Strangely, the switchboard suddenly began to receive calls from room 904. But this was impossible, as at the time, the room was undergoing renovation and had no furnishings, lights, carpet, or telephone lines.
(cue twilight music)
While he never actually said, yes, it’s haunted, he told me enough to keep me on my toes while walking through the open corridors. And then, when I went to my room that night, I sat and took a photograph and saw something strange in the mirror.
Do you see it? Nah, me either. I was just kidding.
If you’ve ever stayed in a hotel with a long history, you’re sure to at least pick up on the vibe of the hotel. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s a wee bit strange. But the case of the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver is simply one of a unique property that appreciates its heritage.