Tuesday, 2 September, 2014

Published February 22, 2014
Heritage hotels hark back to storied past
Time-travel to the 1800s to early 1900s when you stay in Colorado
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The 241-room Brown Palace Hotel & Spa, founded in 1892, still retains its grandeur and grace, with its red granite and sandstone structure. - PHOTO: TAY SUAN CHIANG

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HOTELS set in historical buildings abound in Colorado. Those who like a bit of heritage with their travels, may want to head back in time at these properties.

The Brown Palace

321 17th Street Denver Colorado 80202


SOME hotels lose their shine and look their age after a few decades of operations, but not the Brown Palace Hotel & Spa. Much of Denver has changed since the hotel's opening in August 1892, but The Brown Palace still retains its grandeur and grace.

The 241-room hotel is named after Henry C Brown, a real estate entrepreneur who came to Denver from Ohio.

Back in the late 1800s, people from all across the United States were still flocking to the West, seeking their fortunes in gold and silver. Brown saw the opportunity to build a hotel in Denver: people would always stop in the city, regardless of whether they were settling down or passing through, and they would need a place to stay.

Brown spared no expense building his hotel, spending US$2 million, a huge sum back then. It was designed in the Italian Renaissance style, using Colorado red granite and Arizona sandstone for the building's exterior.

Inside, there is an atrium lobby with balconies rising eight floors above ground, surrounded by cast iron railings with ornate grilles. Onyx was imported from Mexico for parts of the hotel, no wood was used for the floors and walls, and the hotel was hailed as the second fire-proof building in the United States.

The hotel's original artesian well still exists. Located 720 feet underground, it continues to provide water to every faucet in the hotel.

Since 1905, nearly every US president has visited the hotel. While on their tour of the US in 1964, the Beatles stayed here too.

According to hotel trivia, the Brown Palace saw a great surge in applications for housekeeping by young girls. One of its four suites is named after the band. The interiors of The Beatles Suite may not be overly posh, but there are hints of the Beatles presence including a jukebox in the living room, and Beatles memorabilia on the walls. It comes as no surprise to hear that the hotel has some special guests from days of long ago. Each October, the hotel's historian leads guests on tours through some of the hotel's more hair-raising hauntings.

The Broadmoor

1 Lake Avenue, Colorado Springs, CO 80906


THERE are plenty of stories of people who made it big in the midwest in the late 1800s and early 1900s and one of them is Spencer Penrose, a Philadelphia entrepreneur who had made his fortune in gold and copper mining.

Penrose had earlier bought The Broadmoor Casino and Hotel, and had ambitious plans for it. With the objective of creating the most beautiful resort in the world, he imported artisans from Italy and other European countries to create the ornate mouldings and paintings which adorn the interior of The Broadmoor as well as the elaborate exterior detailing.

Stepping into The Broadmoor is much like going to a resort in Tuscany, back then something that was seen in the US, but today, is still just as impressive.

The hotel's architectural and design features include a spectacular curved marble staircase, dramatic chandeliers, Della Robbia-styled tiles, handpainted beams and ceilings, a carved marble fountain, and a striking pink stucco facade.

Besides US presidents, the hotel has also played host to numerous entertainment and sports personalities. In keeping with the times, amenities have been added on to the hotel, including a spa, golf course and convention facilities. Guests can choose to stay at one of its 756 guest rooms, 124 suites, 44 cottage bedrooms, or two brownstone apartments.

Back in its early days, The Broadmoor was known as the "European alternative", and many visitors came for the clean, mountain air, said to relieve symptoms of tuberculosis and other bronchial maladies.

These days however, no one would bat an eyelid, if you choose not to stay at the hotel, but to have Sunday brunch at its Lake Terrace dining room. The old-fashioned buttermilk griddle cakes with melted butter and Vermont maple syrup are worth the ride there.

The Mining Exchange

8 S Nevada Avenue, Colorado Springs, CO 80903


IT is not difficult to guess what this hotel building was used for previously. The Mining Exchange, was once home to the Colorado Springs Mining Exchange to promote regional mining companies and their stock, in the 1920s. According to archives, the Exchange trading room was two storeys high, with a brass railing that separated the public area from the trading floor.

But as mining ebbed in importance to the region, the building opened to other businesses including law, architectural and oil companies.

Three years ago, American businessman Perry Sanders bought over the building, got rid of tenants, gutted the building to its core and restored it to its original grandeur. In 2012, The Mining Exchange opened, under the Wyndham Group.

The old trading room still exists, but part of it has been converted to form ballroom space. The Exchange's main vault still stands in the hotel lobby, becoming a photo spot for hotel guests.

Smaller vaults are on the remaining floors, and they no longer keep money, but have been converted into storage space for the hotel's housekeeping department.

Old brick walls, much of them original, can still be seen in the hotel's 117 rooms.