Ec­cen­tric sur­vivor of Den­ver’s sil­ver boom

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

THERE are many rea­sons to visit Den­ver, Colorado, but mine is straight­for­ward. I go to the so-called Mile-High City to see my daugh­ter, who lives there. Blood may be thicker than wa­ter, but I firmly be­lieve par­ent-daugh­ter re­la­tion­ships are en­hanced by my stay­ing at a ho­tel rather than her home.

With the wide range of ac­com­mo­da­tion avail­able in this con­ven­tion city, I have her to thank for a rec­om­men­da­tion that has be­come my reg­u­lar choice. It’s the Ox­ford, Den­ver’s old­est, surely most in­ter­est­ing and (to a de­gree) ec­cen­tric ho­tel.

Listed by the Na­tional Trust, the ho­tel is a pic­ture of so­lid­ity with its red-brick fa­cade, a re­minder of what so much of this part of Den­ver must have looked like be­fore the 1980s brought mass de­mo­li­tion of city land­marks.

Now the area has made a come­back as LoDo, the lower down­town re­gion, home to smart bou­tiques and gal­leries, bars and restau­rants and the Coors Field base­ball sta­dium.

Arriving is a cer­e­mony in it­self, as the staff im­me­di­ately ma­te­ri­alise to take my lug­gage into a re­cep­tion area sharply re­moved from the bland­ness of the mod­ern ho­tel chains.

The Rocky Moun­tain paint­ings on the walls be­low the high pressed-metal ceil­ing and the Fred­eric Rem­ing­ton bronze of a cow­boy on a rear­ing bronco make it clear this is the Amer­i­can west.

It’s a theme re­peated through­out the ho­tel, with paint­ings, more Rem­ing­ton bronzes and a charm­ing col­lec­tion of an­tique toys in dis­play cab­i­nets, some of which were clearly made at about the time the ho­tel opened in 1891, at the height of Den­ver’s sil­ver boom.

The Ox­ford was Den­ver’s first grand ho­tel, boast­ing, as the staff will tell you, the city’s first vertical rail­way, or lift.

As a re­peat vis­i­tor, I know what to ex­pect when I am shown to my room: more space than is usual in gue­strooms th­ese days and a large, mod­ernised bath­room that con­trasts with the rather heavy fur­ni­ture dat­ing from the ho­tel’s re­dec­o­ra­tion in the 1930s.

I know, too, there will be strong cof­fee avail­able all day on each floor, con­ve­niently lo­cated be­side free com­put­ers pro­vid­ing high-speed in­ter­net con­nec­tions.

I am­sur­prised on my lat­est visit by one vari­ant on past prac­tice in the lobby. In­stead of the com­pli­men­tary sherry brought out for guests in the early evening, the de­can­ter sit­ting be­side the glasses on the tray is filled with Grand Marnier.

A bit early in the evening for a liqueur? Well, per­haps just this once.

More con­ven­tion­ally, my choice for an evening drink falls on the Ox­ford’s Cruise Bar. Voted the city’s top spot for a dry mar­tini, it’s a clas­sic of art deco style mod­elled on one of the saloons on the ocean liner Queen Mary. Dis­ap­point­ingly, I have yet to see the ghost who is sup­posed to drop in from time to time.

For meals I don’t need to leave the com­fort­ing am­bi­ence of the ho­tel. Break­fast, lunch and din­ner are served in McCormick’s Fish House and Bar, and lunch and din­ner in a clas­sic Ital­ian, Il Fornio. McCormick’s ver­sion of a con­ti­nen­tal break­fast is a lav­ish help­ing of fresh fruit, yo­ghurt, a choice of breads or pas­tries and a huge or­ange juice.

Its west­ern omelet is large enough to fuel the day’s ac­tiv­i­ties.


The Ox­ford Ho­tel, 1600 17th St, Den­ver, Colorado 80202. Phone +1 303 620 5400; www.theox­ford­ho­ Tar­iff: From $US180 ($275). Rates vary ac­cord­ing to sea­son and day of the week. Get­ting there: About 40 min­utes by car from Den­ver in­ter­na­tional air­port. Check­ing in: Mainly Amer­i­cans, but for­eign­ers re­ceive a warm wel­come. Pets are wel­come to stay in their own­ers’ rooms. Wheel­chair ac­cess: Yes. Bed­time read­ing: An ex­cel­lent guide to lo­cal eat­ing is Den­verDines:ARes­tau­ran­tGuide­andMore by John Lehn­dorff, restau­rant critic for the now de­funct Rock­yMoun­tainNews. Step­ping out: Don’t miss the Den­ver Art Mu­seum, with its dra­matic Hamil­ton Build­ing ad­di­tion, de­signed by Daniel Libe­skind and opened in 2006. In sum­mer, watch the Rock­ies play at Coors Field. One of the coun­try’s best book­shops, the Tat­tered Cover, is a block from the Ox­ford. Brick­bats: Oc­ca­sional creak­ing floor­boards; the wa­ter pipes are some­times noisy. Bou­quets: Friendly and at­ten­tive staff in an es­tab­lish­ment that is quite re­moved from the ho­mogenised style of many mod­ern ho­tels.

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