Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Brown Palace

I've discovered an interesting reaction when I mention the Brown Palace to someone else who's stayed there. They immediately begin to smile. It's a secret code. To stay at the Brown Palace is to love it. By today's standards, the outside is unprepossessing. However, it must have caused jaws to drop when it was built in 1892. Henry Brown built it in a field he'd used for grazing his cows. He spent the unheard of sum of $1.6 million on the building and another $400,000 on the furnishings. Glowing golden Mexican onyx dominated the lobby which was crowned eight stories above with a glorious stained glass ceiling. Lacy cast iron panels topped with a brass railing trimmed each balcony. Arches around the mezzanine held bulbs with metal floral reflectors mounted on hand-painted panels. And guess what -- all that beauty remains. For 116 years the lobby of the Brown Palace has signaled an elegant welcome to its guests.

Tours of the hotel are given each Wednesday and Saturday at 2:00 and provide a great way to see the sights and hear the stories of the hotel. Don't miss the antique silver water fountains which provide water from the hotel's own artesian well 750 feet beneath the hotel. All the hotel's water comes from this source. Antique silver pieces are on display by the entrance to the Palace Arms, the hotel's premier dining room. Inside, you'll also find a small private dining area, the Independence Room where chef's tastings and private parties are held. The wallpaper, created in 1834 in Alsace-Lorraine, is the same paper that hangs in the Diplomatic Receiving Room at the White House.

Every president since Theodore Roosevelt -- with the exception of Calvin Coolidge -- has stayed here. The three presidential suites honor Roosevelt, Reagan and Eisenhower. The Eisenhower suite is the largest. The first lady, Mamie Eisenhower, grew up in Denver and had family here so the Eisenhowers visited Denver often and stayed for weeks at a time.

For the town that's about to host its second Democratic National Convention (the first was in 1908) I was feeling a distinct Republican theme here. I was, however, taken to the Gold Room, an intimate and elegant meeting space, which once served as the Oval Office for President Clinton. I didn't ask if he made use of the Churchill Room -- the hotel's cigar bar!

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