Secrets of Colorado: 9 secrets of the Brown Palace Hotel

Back in 1892, the only way to get to Denver was train, wagon or horse. But a hotel opened on a triangle-shaped lot between the State Capitol and Cherry Creek. It was not just a hotel, but a grand hotel with fireplaces and bathrooms in each room. A hotel with a grand entrance, grand staircase and grand ballroom. A hotel that still stands today.

Let's go inside to learn nine secrets of the Brown Palace Hotel.

Secret No 1: Yes, there are ghosts in the hotel. Brown Palace historian Debra Faulkner prefers to call them, "unexplained phenomena."

The Brown Palace Club Room is where they get the most reports of "feelings" and sightings.

While the room is being renovated right now, in the past, visitors and employees have reported the lights going off and on, the carpet "crawling" under their feet and a bartender who appears to go in and out through a wall.

Ever hear people talk about skeletons in the closet of a politician? You could say Dwight Eisenhower had ghosts in his campaign headquarters. The Brown Palace Club Room was used in 1952 as Dwight Eisenhower's campaign headquarters when he ran for President.

The Club Room is one of the corner rooms in the hotel. Speaking of which -- why is the building shaped like a triangle?

Secret No 2: The Brown Palace is a triangle-shaped hotel because the hotel was built on a triangle-shaped lot.

The city founders initially laid out the streets along the Cherry Creek’s twisty path. Then, streets were laid out on compass points on Capitol Hill. So when the streets met, they created odd angles and in the case of the Brown Palace – a triangle-shaped lot.

Secret No 3 : There are tunnels under the Brown Palace. A tunnel was built under Tremont Street in 1959.

The tunnel is used to move room service workers, housekeepers and other items between the Brown Palace and its annex across the street – now a Holiday Inn Express.

But what about the rumors/legends that there was a tunnel to the Navarre building when it was a brothel in the early 1900s? Faulkner says when crews did restoration work at the Navarre in 1987, they found tunnel tracks in the basement.

Tracks were often used to move coal carts in and out of buildings around Denver.

Faulkner admits there’s lots of “speculation” that men may have used those same tunnels to visit the Navarre without being seen crossing the street or using the front entrance to the building.

Secret No. 4: Every President since 1905, except Calvin Coolidge and Barack Obama, has visited the Brown Palace.

The hotel has three presidential suites.

Room 825, the Eisenhower Suite, is a corner room and includes a door bell, a formal dining room and an office.

While it has a fireplace, it’s not the fireplace mantel that Eisenhower dented while hitting golf balls. That mantel was replaced in 2000, Faulkner explained.

However, the dented piece remains in the room today in a shadowbox as a souvenir.

There’s a fourth suite many ask about -- the Beatles Suite.

It features Beatles covers, photos and even a juke box with just Beatles music – 220+ songs!

By the way, when the Fab 4 stayed here, the suite had two bedrooms, now it just has one.

The hotel actually installed an iron gate in the hallway to keep people away from the Beatles' hotel room doors when the Beatles stayed here in 1964, Faulkner said.

The Beatles never saw much of the hotel though. They were brought up and down to their suite in the service elevator. They never saw the Grand Atrium.

Speaking of the Grand Atrium…

Secret No. 5: The Grand Atrium has seen some major changes over the years, including the location of the entrance. The original hotel entrance was on Broadway when the hotel opened.

But as more people began driving cars, and Broadway got busier, it became too dangerous to load and unload guests on Broadway, Faulkner explained. That entrance closed in 1937.

In the lobby, there was a grand fireplace, but it was removed around 1925. Now the entrance to the hotel’s spa is where the fireplace used to stand. However, if you look closely from the upper floors, you may spot the old fireplace mantel above the spa’s entrance.

As you look at the upper floors around the atrium, you may notice the 700+ metal panels that make up the railings.

However, the panels are not perfect. If you look around, you'll see there are two that are upside down. 

Secret No. 6: That skylight at the top of the atrium? That’s not the roof of the hotel. There’s actually another floor up there.

While you can only count eight floors from the atrium, there’s actually a 9th floor. When the hotel opened, the 8th floor was two stories high with a grand ballroom, dining rooms and changing rooms for the grand events held at the turn of the century.

However, during the Great Depression, the 8th floor was converted into two floors of apartments with kitchenettes.  The rent helped pay for the hotel to stay in business when many other businesses closed, Faulkner explained. The last of the apartment residents moved out in the mid-1980s.

Secret No. 7: The Brown Palace is one of the few places where you can smoke indoors. Well, only in the Churchill Bar. The bar, named for the Churchill brand of cigars not Winston Churchill, has a humidor where it sells cigars, and there are even private boxes you can rent to store your cigars.

There’s a painting in the Churchill Bar that has been in the hotel since it opened. The Sultan’s Dream was painted in 1892 and has hung in various places around the hotel over the last 120+ years, Faulkner said. (Due to the nudity in the photo, we decided not to include it here.)

The restaurant next door to the Churchill Bar, the Palace Arms, is decorated in the Napoleonic period and includes dueling pistols believed to have belonged to Napoleon and his second wife, Louisa.

One-time Brown Palace owner, C.K. Boettcher was an avid collector and even went to France after WWII to get some of the décor for this restaurant.

Secret No. 8: The hotel sits on an artesian well and you can taste the water for yourself. There are two fountains in the lobby that get their water from the well, more than 700-feet below the hotel.

Secret No. 9: There are bees living on the roof of the hotel.  Three hives were installed in 2010. Then two more were added.

The hotel uses the honey in its spa, restaurants and even a bourbon.

Learn more secrets of the Brown Palace by taking a tour on a Wednesday or Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. The cost is $10. Learn more on the Brown Palace’s website.

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