Former Site of Windsor Hotel
While the great Windsor Hotel no longer exists, it lives on in memory. Currently the site houses the Xcel Building. The Windsor Hotel was torn down in 1960. However it was once a symbol for the city of Denver. It was a sign that it was a distinguished city. The hotel had 400 rooms. It was the first building in the city to get electricity. It featured gambling rooms, underground tunnels to various parts of the city, a bath house, and a ballroom with the first floating dance floor in the U.S. Many celebrities and statesmen stayed here, including four presidents. "Calamity Jane" even made an appearance. In its' prime it was a thriving center for luxurious debauchery.
Backstory and Context
In 1880 the beautiful Windsor Hotel opened. It was located on the NE corner of 18th and Larimer St. It was boasted as the first true luxury hotel in Denver; a symbol of prosperity for the Rocky Mountain State. It was a five-story building with 400 rooms. Many local and national figures were entertained here. Horace Tabor the owner had a hush-hush relationship with his mistress here. The hotel was eventually torn down for a parking lot in 1960.
The exterior was modeled after the Windsor Castle in England and the Windsor Hotel in Montreal. It was built in Gothic style. Constructed with sandstone from Ft Collins and rhyolite from Colorado Springs. It had a grand entrance on Larimer and a “ladies entrance” on 18th. Each entrance had an iron porte-cochere to allow for carriages. It was the first building in Denver to be wired for electricity.
Inside, the hotel allowed for free movement to parts of the city. There was a corridor that ended at shops on Larimer. There were also hidden tunnels to Union station, a car barn on Arapahoe, and one to a palatial marble bath. The bath had Turkish, Russian, and Roman pools. There was a podiatrist, barber and hairdresser readily available. The restaurant was similar to a farm-to-table operation. The hotel had its own farm with livestock and vegetation. They also staffed hunters to bring in wild game. There were gambling and gaming rooms. A staircase coming from these rooms was labeled “suicide staircase.” Many lost their life savings from high roller buy-ins of $5000. They would jump from the stairs upon losing their money. Murals of local celebrities by Herndon Davis adorned the walls. These have been relocated to the Oxford Hotel.
Horace Tabor the owner was an interesting man. He became known for his illicit affair with Lizzie (Baby Doe) McCourt. She was housed in one of the luxury suites. Rumor has it she was the only woman allowed to use the underground tunnels. He built her the first floating dance floor in the United States. It was located in the ballroom. It was made of white ash and black walnut.
The Windsor had a whole flock of famous visitors, some were legend. A few tall tales circle the hotel. One that the bar refused service to “Calamity Jane” saying she needed to sit down at a table “like a lady.” So, she fired a gun in protest. Another, a socialite dropped a diamond and platinum necklace down a toilet due to a marital argument. The hotel entertained local and national names like: Sir Henry M. Stanley, Mark Twain, John L. Sullivan, Robert Lewis Stevenson, Marie Dressler, Sarah Burnhart, Lillian Russel, and presidents Grant, Cleveland, Roosevelt and Taft.
It was a hotel of opulence but it fell on hard times by the 1930’s, renovation in the 1940’s brought it back to life. By 1959 the Garrett Lumber and Wrecking Co acquired the title. They had a huge auction of the hotels fineries. In 1960 it was torn down and replaced with a parking lot.
- Searles, Denis M. Larimer Street: What’s Around the Bend on Last Stretch of Denver’s First Center?, Las Angeles Times. April 18th 1993. Accessed June 18th 2020. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1993-04-18-me-24211-story.html.
- Windsor Hotel , Denver Public Library. Accessed June 18th 2020. https://digital.denverlibrary.org/digital/collection/p15330coll22/id/76258/.
- Fetter, Rosemary. The Windsor Hotel Denver, Soapy Smiths Soap Box. April 2nd 2012. Accessed June 18th 2020. https://soapysmiths.blogspot.com/2012/04/windsor-hotel-denver-colorado.html.
Denver Public Library