Eccentric survivor of Denver’s silver boom
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.theoxfordhotel.com. 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.