Leadville’s Delaware Hotel: History Comes to Life

At the center of Leadville’s National Historic District, the Victorian-era Delaware Hotel stands as a monument to a different time. A member of the Historic Hotels of the Rockies, the Delaware was built in 1886 during the town’s gold and silver rushes. Today, the hotel is still known as the “Crown Jewel of Leadville,” and brings the beauty of the Victorian era to life in the historic mining town, the highest incorporated city in the U.S.

Leadville began during the California Gulch gold rush in the 1860s, and was first known as Oro City. Although the gold supply was depleted and the population followed suit, the discovery of silver in 1877 spurred another swelling of residents, and soon the arrival of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad solidified the town’s existence.

In the mid-1880s, three brothers by the name of Callaway moved to Leadville and established a branch of their Queen’s Ware earthenware business on Harrison Avenue, called the Callaway Block, which later burned down. The brothers also erected the Delaware Hotel in homage to their home state. Completed in October 1886, it was equipped with steam heat, hot and cold water, gas lighting and six bathrooms. The first floor was dedicated to space for shops, and the two floors above had 50 furnished rooms that served as offices and bedrooms.

delaware hotel leadville
Each of the Delaware Hotel’s guest rooms has a unique look with Victorian period furnishings and antiques on display.

Two of the brothers, William and George, eventually returned to Denver to enjoy their fortunes from business investments, and the third brother, John, remained in Leadville to operate the hotel. During its heyday, the hotel hosted the rich and famous, including the “unsinkable” Molly Brown, and the infamous, such as outlaw Butch Cassidy.

Today, the Delaware Hotel has been carefully restored with Victorian period furnishings, including chandeliers, tapestries, heirloom quilts and antique bed frames. Each of the 40 guest rooms has a unique look that changes as antiques are sold to collectors and more are brought in. Framed biographies and news articles that interpret the town’s history, as well as antique displays, add other historic touches throughout the hotel.

The Delaware remains true to its storefront roots with the Delaware Mercantile, Leadville’s largest shopping venue. The store sells clothing, jewelry, souvenirs, toys and artwork, as well as antiques. A portion of the shop doubles as the hotel’s lobby, and most of the antiques found in each room are for sale.

The hotel is also home to Callaway’s Restaurant, offering daily meals with food like smoked meats, homemade soups and salads and buffalo chili. The restaurant serves a complimentary continental breakfast to hotel guests, and offers a bistro-style lunch with entrees starting at $5. Drawing from the hotel’s Victorian digs, Callaway offers afternoon tea on Sundays (reservations recommended) – served as Traditional Tea (with finger sandwiches and desserts) or Cowboy Tea (with pastrami sandwiches, pretzels and beer). This is polished off with a Victorian tea history lesson.

leadville hotel
Leadville history is displayed throughout the hotel, as well as antiques that are for sale to collectors and guests.

The hotel’s location makes a great base for exploring the Leadville area. In winter, skiers can make the hotel their base for a trip to the nearby Ski Cooper at Chicago Ridge. In warmer weather, the surrounding mountain country is perfect for hiking, mountain biking and river rafting.

If You Go

Delaware Hotel
700 Harrison Ave.
Leadville, Colorado 80461
719-486-1418 or 800-748-2004

Ski Cooper
259 County Road 29
Leadville, Colorado 80461