Renaissance Denver Downtown Hotel Occupies Historic Bank Building on Landmark Site

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"The Bank that Looks Like a Bank," now Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center. Photo courtesy of Renaissance Denver Downtown
“The Bank that Looks Like a Bank,” now Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center. Photo courtesy of Renaissance Denver Downtown

The Renaissance Denver Downtown is aptly named. Not just because it belongs to Marriott’s Renaissance Collection of 160 hotels around the world. More importantly, it represents the rebirth of a landmark building and a reawakening of the corner of 17th St. and Champa in downtown Denver. It’s a beauty!

Renaissance Denver Downtown History

When the neoclassic Greek Revival building was constructed for the Colorado National Bank in 1915, they called it “the bank that looked like a bank.” Yep, it sure does. It stands stately and sturdy, with Ionic columns of white marble (from Marble, Colorado) distinguishing the original four stories. In 1960, two more stories were added; and finally, as it morphed into a hotel, two more floors topped it off. The Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center opened one year shy of a century after it was erected.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the iconic building sits on the corner dubbed “Four Corners” that marked the center of Denver’s business district in the early 20th Century when 17th Street became known as “Wall Street of the West.” With more than 40 percent of the city’s offices, banks and law firms there today, it stays true to its nickname.

As a native Denverite, I love the history of this place. I’m sure my father, a downtown Denver businessman, banked there. And I love that Stonebridge Companies, owner and operator of the beloved landmark, has carefully preserved its history while converting it into a modern luxury hotel.

“There is something special about connecting visitors to the city with a piece of the past,” said Navin Dimond, president and CEO of Stonebridge. “We give them a modern experience in an historic setting, one completely unique to this city.”

17th St, "Wall Street of the West." Photo courtesy of Renaissance Denver Downtown
17th St, “Wall Street of the West.” Photo courtesy of Renaissance Denver Downtown

Renaissance Denver Downtown Interior

With much curiosity, I step inside the original bronze doors and immediately am in awe. The lobby is so grand—a three-story atrium with shiny marble floors and imposing columns. Cozy groupings of contemporary and traditional furniture break up the massive space where bankers and clients closed financial deals and miners brought gold nuggets for safekeeping. The Teller Bar stands along one side where tellers used to count out cash to customers. It’s now a lively gathering place where I discover one of the best Mules in Denver.

Atrium lobby of Renaissance Denver Downtown. Photo courtesy of Renaissance Denver Downtown
Atrium lobby of Renaissance Denver Downtown. Photo courtesy of Renaissance Denver Downtown

I look up to the third level where 16 original oil-on-canvas murals by famed western artist Allen Tupper True grace the walls. The series is called “Indian Memories,” with each mural depicting a different aspect of Native American life. The murals debuted in 1925. You can view them best from the 2nd floor Concierge Lounge (where the bank’s executives used to hang out). Colorado artists and local galleries provide the rest of the original artwork around the hotel, much of it themed in money and gold. Each floor presents a different motif from the building’s history, and each guest room features Denver photographer Paul Brokering’s work highlighting architectural elements of the building.

Club lounge with view of murals. Photo courtesy of Renaissance Denver Downtown
Club lounge with view of murals. Photo courtesy of Renaissance Denver Downtown

Renaissance Denver Downtown Rooms

There are 229 rooms that used to be offices; nine suites were executive offices. We stayed in a standard king room, beige with touches of teal blue in the lounge chair and artwork. It is compact with TV, desk and free WiFi; sideboard with coffee/tea service and mini fridge; closet with shelves, iron/ironing board and bathrobe. The bathroom is small for two people, with a single sink. But it does have a magnifying mirror, nice shower and an interesting floor-to-ceiling photo of an Ionic column behind the toilet. I do hope they replace the towels, however, as they have a scratchy ribbed fabric that is anything but soft.

Standard king Room. Photo by Claudia Carbone
Standard king Room. Photo by Claudia Carbone

Renaissance Denver Downtown Dining

Many hotel restaurants are meh, but Range is exceptional. Award-winning Executive Chef Paul Nagan incorporates ingredients, culture and cooking techniques specific to the Rocky Mountain region that he calls New American West cuisine. For example, western meats Wagyu beef, elk and bison are on the dinner menu, as well as chicken and seafood. Small plates include porcini mushroom agnolotti, which I devoured. It was delicious. The room’s ambiance oozes with a rich sophistication of dark woods and fabrics and western artwork.

The Teller Bar offers pub fare, and illy Caffé features illy coffee drinks, fresh bakery goods and small lunch items.

Range Restaurant. Photo courtesy of Renaissance Denver Downtown
Range Restaurant. Photo courtesy of Renaissance Denver Downtown

Renaissance Denver Downtown Services

Renaissance concierge service goes above and beyond other hotels. Called “Navigators,” specialized guides offer insiders’ knowledge of cities and hotels. In Denver, Lead Navigator Michael Gayle gave me a delightful walkabout, pointing out architectural details and historical aspects of the hotel, such as the the CNB logo on every room door and the original vaults that held millions of dollars worth of gold mined during the Colorado Gold Rush The doors are 33 inches thick and weight more than 60,000 pounds. He also showed me the area set aside on the beautiful lower level for women to “rest and write their checks” during the age of women’s suffrage. The bank recognized women’s independence and even employed a teller dedicated to female customers.

Lobby ceiling detail. Photo by Claudia Carbone
Lobby ceiling detail. Photo by Claudia Carbone

Also on the spacious lower level are eight beautifully appointed large and small event rooms, plus a 24-hour business center and fitness room. Parking is $42 per day; pets are not allowed.

Things To Do Near the Hotel

Renaissance Denver Downtown is in the financial district, just two blocks from a light rail station and one block from shops and restaurants on the 16th Street Mall. The Mall shuttle travels to shops and restaurants of Union Station. Here you can board a train for the 35-minute ride to Denver International Airport. Downtown Denver is a walkable city, with restaurants, museums, attractions, theatres, shops, sports venues, convention center and state capitol all within a short walk or free shuttle ride from the hotel. Click here for a complete list.

Renaissance Denver Downtown, 918 17th Street; Denver, Colorado 80202 USA; 303-867-8100; www.rendendowntown.com

Claudia Carbone is an award-winning travel writer based in Denver. Read about other hotels she’s visited in Sleepin’ Around.