Historic downtown hotels frequently follow the story line of the town, and The Hotel Denver is no exception. It is not just a place to sleep, but a place to absorb the current culture and the colorful past of Glenwood Springs. If its walls could talk, this downtown icon would tell stories of immigrant struggles, prohibition, gangsters, two world wars, and a shooting or two.
During the early 1900’s, the train was the heartbeat of Glenwood Springs. The train brought supplies, workmen and tourists into town, and also created a great need for lodging. Where the Hotel Denver building now stands were four saloons, a restaurant, a grocery store and two rooming houses. Throughout the following years, this hodgepodge was expanded and combined by the successful rooming house owners, into today’s elegant modern hotel.
The Kendricks 1885-1905
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 Kendrick was a young boy in Illinois when General George Custer came through his hometown on his way west. Because of that encounter, Art wanted to go west in the worst way. The Chicago fire was devastating to the Kendricks, and Art’s brother Frank was actually lost for two weeks in the mayhem. In 1879 at age eight, Art’s desire to move west was rewarded when his father, Thomas, moved to Leadville, Colorado. Thomas worked in Leadville’s Clarendon Hotel until 1885, when he moved to Glenwood Springs.
The Kendrick rooming house was established by erecting a 40 by 60 foot tent along the Colorado River at the end of Pitkin Avenue. The town of Glenwood Springs was also established in 1885 and the first city council meeting was held at the Kendrick house. By the turn of the century, the Kendrick Cottages grew into elite tourist homes in a lovely wooded area near where the courthouse currently stands. This strategic location for the original tent was just steps from Glenwood’s future (first) train depot.
The town of Glenwood Springs was plotted, and the original town site included the future Hotel Denver property: Block 45. Glenwood Springs was named after Glenwood Iowa, which won out over its previous names of Grand Springs and Defiance. The principal founder of Glenwood Springs was Isaac Cooper, owner of the property where The Hotel Denver currently stands.
Life changed in Glenwood Springs in 1887 when railroads arrived. The Denver and Rio Grande came from the east, and Colorado Midland came from Aspen. People were suddenly able to travel efficiently. Miners came from Aspen and Leadville to enjoy laundry, bathing, and other questionable services. The tourism economy was suddenly blooming, and demand increased quickly for lodging. The Kendrick compound was strategically placed to help meet the needs of these travelers. It was located on a corner opposite the new D&RG railroad station at Riverfront and Pitkin Avenue.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Art Kendrick began his hotel career hopping bells for the Hotel Glenwood in the late 1880’s. The job involved answering calls from the ailing Doc Holliday, and Doc tipped him “pretty good”. At Hotel Glenwood, he also met his future wife, Mary who was working as a maid.
In 1888 the world’s largest hot springs pool was born in the newly established town of Glenwood Springs. It was identified as a world-renowned-healing wonder set in a mountain paradise, which it continues to be.
A Denver and Rio Grande promotion described the route through Glenwood Canyon as the “Scenic Line of the World”. Rail traffic had increased to the point that a new train station was necessary. Catering to the elegant expectations of presidents and wealthy travelers to The Hotel Colorado, D&RWG built a beautiful depot in 1904. The elegant depot boasted red sandstone with vast green lawns. Theodore von Rosenberg from Vienna designed the depot in the style of The Hot Springs Natatorium. The depot remains the star of Glenwood’s downtown skyline.
More trains meant more travelers. Seventh Street opposite the train station was a whirl 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 Kendrick, working as bellhop and maid at The Hotel Glenwood, saved for years and in 1905 were able to rent the upper two stories. Art’s brother Frank was also an investor in the startup venture, until three became a crowd. The Avalanche Echo reported the lease, opining that “everything bids fair to have a successful rooming house there”. The seventeen rooms were named The Denver Rooms. Within a short four years, the Kendricks purchased the property.
The Bosco’s 1906-1912
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 thirty cents, Henry made his way to Colorado.
Henry Bosco earned his living in coal mining and railroad construction. He worked his way to Glenwood Springs via Leadville. By 1906, fourteen or more bars were in the immediate vicinity of the new train station. The enterprising Henry Bosco rented a room in the basement of the river-facing Oberto Saloon to sell wholesale liquor.
Henry’s wholesale liquor operation did well, and in 1908 he was able to buy the Oberto Saloon building. Wasting no valuable real estate; the basement was wholesale liquor, the main floor a saloon, and now the second story had rooms for rent.
In 1908, Mike Bosco followed his uncle Henry to Glenwood Springs, as a young man of sixteen with $5 in his pocket. He enrolled in first grade to learn the language. A letter at the Frontier Historical Society written by a young man tells of going to school with the really big kid who was nice to the little kids. Mike worked polishing stones at the mill in Marble. Like many immigrants, he did not know what he earned because his English was poor and he was afraid that asking would get him fired. Mike collected discarded bottles and resold them, making more money from that enterprise than in the mill.
Using his earnings from discarded bottles, Mike began the franchise of bottling a new soft drink called Coca-Cola. He operated from his Uncle Henry’s bottling business. The ambitious young man also leased the rooms for rent from his Uncle Henry and managed the rooming house, taking a break to serve in World War I.
The Expansion 1913-1922
At the west end of the block, Art and Mary Kendrick’s successful lodging business enabled them to get adjacent properties for further expansion. In 1913, an ambitious three story remodel was completed of brick. The Avalanche Echo newspaper encouraged the contractor to complete the addition as soon as possible, as it would “certainly be a financial success.”
Henry Bosco acquired two more lots and began construction of The Star Hotel, which opened in 1915.
Prohibition started the first day of 1916, and the bars on Riverfront, now re-named 7th Street, were in trouble. Art Kendrick was finally able to buy the remaining lot to the west. Bosco expanded to the east. Although competitors, Kendrick and Bosco were great friends.
In 1922, Art Kendrick completed the most ambitious expansion to date. The brick facade and windows of the Hotel Denver were now matched up. Improvements included connections for telephones, toilets in each room, an elevator, and a marvelous lobby floor crafted from one-inch tiles. An exterior lighting scheme to rival the Denver Electric building was installed, with lights appearing only a few inches apart. The building sparkled light a diamond in the night. 1922 was also the year Mike and Phyllis Bosco welcomed their new son, Hank.
Signs of the Times 1929-1937
The two hotels weathered the Great Depression. The Star Hotel provided a roof over the Bosco family, but little else. Mike Bosco supplemented his income by selling grapes to other Italian families for wine making. Henry Bosco died in 1929 at age 72.
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. Jack arrived in Western Colorado in 1929. He brought with him a police record including kidnapping, homicide, burglary, and more. He was never convicted. Hank Bosco tells of having great fun riding in the rumble seat of Jack’s Lincoln, at least until his mother found out.
No one knows the reason, but one time Diamond Jack came out of the Hotel Denver 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 Denver incident in 1932, 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 Jack $1250 and asked him to leave the state.
Clark Gable enjoyed staying at The Hotel Denver in the 30’s, and would spend a week fishing. It was quite an event for local ladies.
The Two Became One 1938-1972
By 1938, Mary Kendrick had probably had enough, and talked Mike Bosco into borrowing the money to buy the Denver Hotel side of the block. The Hotel Denver again almost doubled in size. County records show a 5% note payable to Kendricks for $75,000, and $7000 payable to Mr.Peter Chuc. Art and Mary Kendrick were able to retire, confident that their life-long work was in good hands. Bosco chose to keep the Hotel Denver name.
Interestingly, Mike Bosco did not own the Bosco/Star side of the block. He leased it from heirs of his Uncle Henry until 1947.
The Navy commissioned the Hotel Colorado and Hot Springs Pool as a hospital for recovering veterans during World War II. Trainloads of ill and injured soldiers, medical personnel, and supportive families descended on Glenwood Springs. Camp Hale near Leadville was activated, and many of the military families stayed in Glenwood Springs. With this demand, The Hotel Denver prospered once again. By 1948, Mike Bosco was able to modernize the old hotels; removing the cornice work, and re-facing the old Star Hotel.
Son Hank Bosco served in the war. Upon his return, he took over the management of The Hotel Denver along with his parents.
After World War II and the army pulling out, the owner of the Hotel Colorado and Hot Springs Pool separated those two enterprises and sold the hotel. Fearing the pool would be lost for use to the general public, a group of investors including Mike and Hank Bosco purchased the pool. The first years were touch and go, but by 1973 the pool operation was taking off, and was also taking a great deal of Hank’s time.
The Disruption 1973-1991
After 58 years and three generations of family ownership, the Bosco family sold The Hotel Denver in 1973. The buyer was a corporation headed by Kirk Whiteley of Grand Junction. The corporation also operated the Hotel Colorado. Plans were to combine marketing efforts and to encourage convention business. Mike Bosco continued to live in the hotel, where he had lived for over 62 years, until his death in 1974.
In 1981, Janet Smith and Rhudy Fowler of San Diego purchased the Hotel Denver. Within two years, plans were underway for a 4 million dollar renovation.
A 1983 Glenwood Post article reported that the hotel would change its name to Grande Hotel and begin a total renovation. The renovation would include a 3-story office building, and feature a 3-story glass-walled atrium. The number of rooms decreased to 58, down from the all-time high of 100 rooms. The hotel closed for the first time in history during the renovation. The beautiful glass atrium and the south office building were completed. The name change did not happen.
The Hotel Denver went into receivership and was foreclosed upon in 1991.
Back to its Roots 1991
That same year, local businessman Steve Carver rallied a group of locals to buy that property as well as the neighboring Rex Hotel. Over the next few years, Steve and April Carver were able to buy out other members of the group. The Hotel Denver was once again a family business.
Craft beer and local breweries were something of a new concept in 1996. Durango brewpub owners Jim and Bill Carver (not related) joined with Steve and April Carver to open Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company. The new brewpub was located in the old Star section of The Hotel Denver. “The Brewpub” became a local favorite and significant brewpub in the state. It also became the cornerstone of 7th Street re-development in future years.
The final step in joining all of the buildings in Block 45 of the original Glenwood Springs township finally came to be in 1991. New construction on the site of the Rex Hotel was combined with The Hotel Denver, resulting in first floor office space and 17 additional rooms.
2015 – 100th Anniversary of the original Star Hotel construction. There is much to celebrate. When the train brought visitors, businessmen and miners to a young town, the Hotel Denver provided much-needed lodging and services. It picked up the pieces when prohibition caused bars on the riverfront to close. The Hotel provided jobs when hard economic times came, and provided lodging to loved-ones of healing WWII servicemen. It continues to anchor the vital Seventh Street hub of activity, believing that its founders Bosco and Kendrick would be pleased.