Built in 1891, The Oxford is the oldest hotel in Denver, and it’s still operating. That’s due in part to being half a block from Union Station, when in 1870, the arrival of major railroads turned Denver into a transportation hub. A hotel was needed, and Frank E. Edbrooke, who also designed the Brown Palace Hotel a year later, brought his vision to life with local financial backing. Throughout the years, the hotel added two annexes; and in 1979, the new owner closed it for three years while doing a complete restoration. And again in 2009, they refreshed it with contemporary decor but kept a nod to its Guilded Age glamour. In the lobby, you’ll find Mrs. Sherman, a canary sitting in a gilded cage as a reminder of the “canary in a coal mine” long-ago practice of the miners who stayed there.
Vintage Oxford Hotel
A vintage fireplace—the only wood-burning one in downtown Denver—is the centerpiece of the lobby where comfy furniture invites you to gather. The two elevators were the first in the west, so people called them “vertical railways” back in the day. They change the elevator carpets every day to reflect the day of the week (something travelers often forget!).
Many original features have been preserved, like the mosaic logo on the entrance floor. . .
. . .and the wrought-iron railing with the OH logo. On the wall hangs a valuable western art collection.
In the library on the second floor, this old typewriter invites you to type a letter and emboss it with the Oxford seal.
Other historic features are wide hallways to accommodate the hooped skirts of the 1800s and real door keys attached to tassels that you turn into the front desk when you go out. The old-time photos and art hanging in the hallways reflect the history and sense of place.
Rooms at the Oxford Hotel
Contemporary and elegant, the mostly beige rooms have accents of deep blue and emerald green. Lovely black-out curtains cover floor-to-ceiling windows, and antiques and original artwork are different in each of the 80 rooms and suites that are either Victorian – or Art Deco-inspired.
The black-and-white penny-tile floors in the bathrooms are also original, but the rest is updated to standards of any new hotel (unlike many historic hotels where I’ve stayed).
Amenities at the Oxford Hotel
I was surprised at the size of the Oxford Club that’s attached to the hotel. The membership club consists of a two-level fitness center with rooms for classes, and full-service spa, salon and retail in a gorgeous space. Hotel guests have access and get discounts at the club with a $30 nightly fee. The fee also includes WiFi, the business center, car service within two miles, two bottled waters daily, morning coffee and tea, and evening tastings at the lobby’s Bourbon Bar. If you want to venture out, the hotel has partnered with various restaurants and retail in the area to offer discounts to its guests. Just present the card you get at checkin to the participating businesses.
Dining at the Oxford Hotel
Urban Farmer is a steakhouse; but as a vegetarian, I found this delicious cauliflower “steak” on the menu along with a variety of fish options like salmon and sea scallops. Here’s the thing about the meats: Chef Chris Starkus choses only ethically and naturally raised meat that he butchers in-house. He lives on a farm, so runs a true farm-to-table restaurant. Micro-greens and mushrooms are raised in-house, and the rooftop has an apiary that provides honey. I feel comfortable eating at Urban Farmer, knowing the food has been carefully chosen from local sources. Portions are huge (so are the prices), but two people can share a meal and sides. Baked Alaska is a fun flaming dessert prepared table-side.
Do not miss the Cruise Room, the iconic Art Deco bar awash with a reddish hue. In this location since the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, it’s the longest running bar in Denver, so it’s the most historic and by far the sexiest! Panels on the wall depict toasts from around the world; the designer is the same one who designed the Queen Mary cruise ship. The drink menu is impressive and the ice cubes are big squares.
As a native of Denver, I’m proud of our historic hotel – that it has been updated over the years and continues to be one of the city’s best. It’s the first place I like to bring visitors. The longtime doormen, Stewart and Dave, love to share stories of celebrity guests and resident ghosts!
What To Do Around the Oxford Hotel
Bustling Union Station, with its restaurants and retail, is a short walk from the hotel. From there you can catch a train to Denver International Airport—a 35-minute ride. You can also catch trains to hockey, basketball and football sports venues and the suburbs. Coors Field is three blocks away. The 16th St. Mall is one block; its free shuttle runs to the convention center and Denver Center for Performing Arts. The hotel concierge can direct you to the best restaurants and retail in the area. Historic Denver offers tours of LoDo (Lower Downtown), the historic district.
The Oxford Hotel, 1600 17th St., Denver, CO, 80202; 303-628-5400; theoxfordhotel.com
Claudia Carbone is an award-winning travel writer based in Denver. Read about other hotels she’s visited in Sleepin’ Around.