March 5, 2013
The group of rooms we call “Denver Rooms” are relatively new construction. An old building was demolished, and after 288 days of construction, the 17 new Denver Rooms were completed. Completion was August 2001, 11 days before the 911 tragedy. The Denver rooms line the entire eastern (Denver-side, thus the name) face of The Hotel Denver, with views toward the stunning Glenwood Canyon and Colorado River.
The most interesting story of the Denver Rooms is the location, and the layers of history on that corner of Riverfront (now 7th) and Blake Streets. In 1883, the new Town of Defiance was not much more than a dugout and tent settlement. Much of the activity, including the first building, tent-hotel and post office, was along the southern bank of the river; right where you are standing if you are in one of the Denver Rooms. The street began as a crude assembly of tents and dugouts, which were replaced by various small buildings by the beginning of the 1900’s. Most of the businesses on the block were saloons and brothels that served miners in the area.
This lot at 402 Riverfront was originally owned by Glenwood Springs founder, Isaac Cooper, in 1883. It was sold to Mary Brown in 1887 for $600. Jacob Strassheim purchased the lot in 1893, and construction of a brick building began sometime between 1893 and 1898. It seems as though all was not well, as the property was sold at a tax auction to James Sheridan in 1900. Town maps show that a wooden structure was added to the rear in 1904. This was probably a good business move, as a new railroad station was completed just across the street that same year. The train station was built in what had become Riverfront’s rough neighborhood. President Taft refused to enter Glenwood from the train station due to its proximity to the saloon and red light district.
Roma Saloon was the business name in 1910, which changed to the Arcade Hotel in 1917. Mr. Sheridan seems to have been a good businessman, as he sold the property to Battista Anselmi in 1920, just as Prohibition would change the face of 7th Street. Anselmi called his business the Rex Hotel.
In 1921, prohibition was a devastating blow to the downtown saloon and red light district. Real estate was depressed, and next door to the Rex, both Henry Bosco and Art Kendrick were able to add to their holdings and expand their hotels, to the point that they now adjoined to form The Hotel Denver. The Rex Hotel was not joined to The Hotel Denver until the 2001 expansion.
After 1920, the property was sold to the Zanella Family in 1944, to Toni Peabody in 1979, and to Steve and April Carver in 1991. Bob Zanella is a local businessman who tells fond stories of growing up in the Rex Hotel, playing on the lawns of the train station, and fishing in the Colorado.
The Rex Hotel was constructed to provide temporary housing and leisure activities for working-class men. During its lifetime, the hotel continued to gain a reputation as a seedy flophouse, the locale of a variety of shameful activities. The building, originally constructed of low-quality brick, also continued its decline. The Carvers closed the hotel operation, and plans were underway to make it part of The Hotel Denver.
Demolition brought some interesting discoveries. Between the old Rex and the Hotel Denver were two separate packets of damp and moldy, but readable, love letters. From December 1939 through April 1942, seven letters were addressed to Eugene Eversole. The sender was Jewell, who lived in Turtletown, Tennessee. From May through September 1928, four letters were from Pauline, a telephone operator from Calipatria California. Letters were addressed to Jack Obrien. From one of Pauline’s letters, (with her spelling): “Jack, What I wanted to ask you was this – Do you realy love me now and did you realy love me before or did you just like because you were lonesome and blue?”
Also among the debris were 20 multi-colored bottles, presumed to be buried as part of a trash dump before the timber portion of the building was constructed in 1904. The bottles are on display in the lobby of The Hotel Denver.
The rear one-third of the building was constructed of 2-inch lumber, placed on earth. In the front 2/3, bricks were three layers in some places. Because they had been protected from the elements, they were saved and used in the interiors of the new rooms.
Fast forward to 2013. Now 11 ½ years old, the Denver Rooms continue to provide its guests sanctuary, mountain views, antique furnishings and cozy quilts. We hope to welcome you into this story soon!