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Hotel Flashback: A Mile High City Landmark Reborn

Posted by on July 20, 2016 in Projects

By Mary Beth Klatt

When the Beatles stayed at the Brown Palace in Denver more than 50 years ago, the throngs of fans waiting outside and high security inside meant the Fab Four didn’t get to see the details that have made the circa-1892 Richardsonian Romanesque Victorian-style hotel—now part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection—famous. Since, each president—from Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush—has stayed at the property, not to mention other big names including the Rolling Stones, Bob Hope, Katharine Hepburn, Oprah Winfrey, and Taylor Swift.

The Brown Palace's iconic triangular building, designed in 1892 by local architect Frank E. Edbrooke.

The Brown Palace’s iconic triangular building, designed in 1892 by local architect Frank E. Edbrooke.

Designed by local architect Frank E. Edbrooke on a right triangle lot, the hotel was considered so innovative that it was featured on the cover of Scientific American magazine. The first steel-skeleton structure erected between the Mississippi and the West Coast, the hotel claimed to be absolutely fireproof with its superstructure comprising iron, steel, and concrete with hollow terra cotta block interior walls and floors.

A former Brown Palace guestroom

A former Brown Palace guestroom

Edbrooke designed the interiors in the Italian Renaissance style with a soaring eight-story atrium lobby topped by a stained-glass skylight, lighted Florentine arches on the mezzanine, and filigreed cast-iron panels encircling seven floors.

brown palace hotel denver guestrooms

A revamped Brown Palace guestroom by waldrop + nichols studio

With the building’s triangular shape, every guestroom is exterior-facing; when the Brown Palace was the highest building in Denver (at 116 feet and nine stories tall), guests had a panoramic view of the Rocky Mountains or the rolling Eastern Plains.

A blotter found in the 1865 hotel register now serves as guestroom artwork.

A blotter found in the 1865 hotel register now serves as guestroom artwork.

Last year, Dallas design firm waldrop + nichols studio was hired for a $10.5 million update to the hotel’s interiors. Private apartments with furnishings by Art Deco industrial designer Donald Deskey are gone, replaced by special suites named after famous guests. Leather furniture and a bold damask carpeting with a pattern of oversized interlocking ovals in the 200 guestrooms pays homage to the property’s Victorian past, along with a color palette inspired by other areas of the hotel—including sandstone from the exterior and a sapphire accent wall recalling the lobby bar. Room artwork ranges from archival blueprints of the hotel to historic photos of former guests.

The results are “stunning and breathtaking as the Colorado mountains, and will redefine the luxury experience to a new generation of travelers,” says founding partner Reggi Nichols.

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