Beneath a grand ceiling of stained glass, the soft ringing of teaspoons as they hit saucers echoes through the atrium lobby of Denver’s historic Brown Palace Hotel. The sound of Afternoon Tea is coupled with melodious piano being played for guests, enriching the ambience that permeates the historic walls.
Built in 1892 by Henry C. Brown and designed by Frank Edbrooke, The Brown Palace is the second-oldest hotel in Denver (following the Oxford Hotel by a year). Originally with 400 guest rooms, the hotel has been updated to 241 accommodations while maintaining the historic environment. Every president since Teddy Roosevelt has stayed at The Brown Palace, which boasts a suite in his name, as well, according to Shannon Dexheimer-Hulsey, public relations manager. Rooms on the third through seventh floors are in Victorian style, while the eighth and ninth floors contain suites in art deco motif.
Spa services are available in the lobby spa or as an in-room service. Afternoon Tea is served daily from noon to 4 p.m.
The Brown Palace offers several options for dining, from Ship Tavern, noted for its seafood, prime rib and buffalo burger, to the formal Palace Arms. Churchill bar is a cigar bar and one of the few such establishments in Denver since the city’s smoking ban. Ellyngton’s offers breakfast and lunch, as well.
In what may be one of the most unique projects in Denver, The Brown Palace started a bee colony on its rooftop. It is the first hotel in the city to undertake such a venture, and the honey is used for hotel patrons during afternoon tea. While guests of this historic hotel have always been treated like royalty, the hotel has two resident monarchs of its own: queen bees. Two hives are maintained by beekeeper Matt Kentner of Kentner Farms. In addition to hosting its own colony, The Brown Palace donated two additional hives to the Denver Beekeepers Association and partnered with Denver Parks and Recreation in planting bee-friendly flowers in Civic Center Park, a short stroll from the hotel. Besides using the honey from the rooftop hives at afternoon tea, The Brown Palace uses the golden harvests in recipes and spa treatments as the colony continues to mature and grow.
Other unique undertakings include the annual Champagne pyramid, with 6,000 glasses stacked nearly two stories high in the hotel lobby. A master swordsman severs the necks of Champagne bottles and pours the bubbly into the uppermost glass of the pyramid. It’s a free fall as the Champagne flows from glass to glass down the pyramid.
The hotel lobby is worth visiting on other occasions, as well. A 25-foot grand chandelier is set up every Christmas season in conjunction with the Debutante Ball held at The Brown, and during the National Western Stock Show in January the Grand Champion steer is on display during Afternoon Tea.
Royalty, celebrities and political leaders have all stayed at the historic hotel, and you can learn more from The Brown’s historian, who gives tours Wednesdays and Saturdays at 3 p.m. (free for hotel guests and $10 for others).
If You Go
The Brown Palace
321 17th St.
Denver, Colorado 80202