Hotel Denver’s 100 years reflects Glenwood through time
If walls could talk, the Hotel Denver would tell stories of immigrant struggles, prohibition, gangsters, two world wars and a shooting or two. This landmark, located on Seventh Street directly across from the train station in downtown Glenwood Springs, celebrates its 100th birthday this month. It serves train passengers and tourists, as it has since 1915.
“Our founders, Art Kendrick and Henry Bosco, realized that visitors delight in a friendly smile, unexpected touches and perhaps a cold beer. As we celebrate the hotel’s 100th year of providing lodging to Glenwood Springs’ visitors, we couldn’t agree more,” said Steve Carver, who has owned the hotel with his wife, April, since 1991.
Historic downtown hotels frequently follow the storyline of the town, and the Hotel Denver is no exception. Although the hotel officially got its start in 1915, its history dates back to 1885, the same year that Glenwood Springs was established.
The original Hotel Denver, then called the Denver House or Denver Rooms, was started by Art Kendrick, his wife, Mary, and his brother Frank. Art began his hotel career hopping bells for the Hotel Glenwood in the late 1880s. The job involved answering calls from the ailing Doc Holliday, and Kendrick reported that Holliday “tipped him pretty good.”
Life changed in Glenwood Springs in 1887 when the railroads arrived. The Denver and Rio Grande came from the east, and Colorado Midland came from Aspen. People were suddenly able to travel efficiently, and more trains meant more travelers.
Seventh Street opposite the train station was a whirlwind of activity. Bars, restaurants and stores sprung up in a hodgepodge. In the center of the block, Frank Walters built an impressive three-story brick building with a grocery on the first floor. Art and Mary had saved for years and, in 1905, were able to rent the upper two stories.
During the early 1900s, the train was the heartbeat of Glenwood Springs. When the train brought visitors, businessmen and miners to town, the Hotel Denver provided much-needed lodging. It picked up the pieces in 1916 when Prohibition caused bars on the riverfront to close. There were four saloons, a restaurant, a grocery store and two rooming houses where the building now stands. The hotel provided jobs when hard economic times came, and lodging to the loved ones of World War II servicemen healing in the nearby Hotel Colorado and Glenwood Hot Springs.
The other important party in the founding of the Hotel Denver was Henry Bosco. In 1884, after landing in New York from Italy with just 30 cents, he made his way to Colorado. He earned his living in coal mining and railroad construction, and worked his way to Glenwood Springs via Leadville.
By 1906, at least 14 bars were in the immediate vicinity of the new train station. The enterprising Bosco rented a room in the basement of the river-facing Oberto Saloon to sell wholesale liquor. His liquor operation did well, and, in 1908, he was able to buy the Oberto Saloon building. Wasting no valuable real estate, the basement housed his wholesale liquor business, the main floor was a saloon, and the second story had rooms for rent. Bosco’s nephew Mike, also fresh from Italy, took over operation of the rooming division.
At the west end of the block, Art and Mary Kendrick’s successful lodging business enabled them to get adjacent properties for further expansion, and, in 1913, an ambitious three-story remodel was completed of brick. Bosco acquired two more lots and began construction of the Star Hotel, which opened in 1915. The two hotels weathered the Great Depression.
Speakeasies and bootlegging started in earnest as soon as liquor was banned. Glenwood Springs drew the attention of Chicago gangster “Diamond Jack” Alterie, who liked to stay at the Hotel Denver. No one knows why, but one time Diamond Jack came out of the hotel with his guns firing. A porter was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and a bullet grazed him along the temple.
In another hotel incident in 1932, Diamond Jack shot two innocent salesmen through a closed hotel room door. One of the salesmen died as a result of the wound. The judge fined Alterie $1,250 and asked him to leave the state. In the 1930s, the Hotel Denver also hosted Clark Gable for a week-long fishing trip. It was quite an event for local ladies.
By 1938, Mary Kendrick talked Bosco’s nephew Mike into borrowing the money to buy the Hotel Denver side of the block. It again almost doubled in size.
After three generations of family ownership, the Bosco family sold the Hotel Denver in 1973 to a corporation in Grand Junction. Rhudy Fowler and Janet Smith of San Diego acquired the hotel in 1981 and completed a multi-year renovation exceeding $5.8 million. A grand reopening was held on June 1, 1985.
In 1991, Carver rallied a group of locals to buy the hotel property as well as the neighboring Rex Hotel, and the two were eventually combined. Over the next few years, the Carvers bought out other members of the group, and the Hotel Denver was once again a family business.
Today’s hotel is not just a place to sleep, but a place to absorb the current culture and the colorful past of Glenwood Springs. It’s home to Glenwood Canyon Brewpub, Mona Lisa Boutique and Riverblend Coffee House, as well as multiple spaces for meetings and events. The Carvers continue to uncover and restore original brick walls, hardwood floors and antiques, reversing the trend of look-alike hotels with look-alike rooms.
“Part of the fun of staying at the Hotel Denver is choosing from the variety of special hotel rooms and suites we have to offer,” April Carver explained. “Each has a style of its own, taking the best qualities from the old and the new. Cozy quilts and antiques warm each guest room, yet we also appreciate modern conveniences including free wireless Internet and high-definition televisions.”
Wandering through the hotel provides visitors with a crash course in Glenwood Springs’ history. The Seventh Street and train station district of Glenwood Springs is once again a thriving gateway to all the town has to offer, anchored by the hotel and the Glenwood Canyon Brewpub. The Carvers believe that founders Bosco and Kendrick would be pleased.
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Glenwood Springs Police Chief Joseph Deras lamented his department’s inability to maintain a constant presence downtown during a virtual public forum Monday night.