The road to redemption is never smooth. Nor is it boring. With that in mind, I’ve tried to avoid using clichéd characters in my books, especially in my Charity House series. Although I’ve had the requisite lawmen and schoolmarms, I’ve also highlighted a rebel preacher, a Shakespearean stage actress, a frontier doctor, an opera singer, a swanky hotel owner, a frontier lawyer and even an artist. Each book in the series is connected in some way to Charity House, a baby farm dedicated to caring for the abandoned children of prostitutes. I’m working on the eighth book in the series, with at least four more coming.
Set in Denver, Colorado in the 1880s, the city itself is always an important character. Thus, I’ve had the opportunity to explore Denver at a time when it was morphing from a mining boom town into a metropolitan city. Two of my favorite buildings
were built at the time my books occur. Both are visited by my characters in my current manuscript.
The first is The Brown Palace. The hotel was built in early 1890, when people were still flocking to the west and seeking their fortunes in gold and silver. Denver was a favorite stop for all, whether coming from or going to the mountains. Henry Cordes Brown, a former carpenter from Ohio, arrived in the city in 1860 and was responsible for building the hotel. When he first settled in Denver he purchased several acres of land that he originally used to graze cattle. He eventually donated some of that land for the state capital and then decided the city needed a grand hotel on part of the rest.
Designed in the Italian Renaissance style, the exterior of The Brown Palace was made of Colorado red granite and Arizona sandstone. The building housed the country’s first atrium lobby with balconies rising eight floors above the ground, cordoned off with cast iron railings. No wood was used for the floors or walls, unusual for the time period and making the structure fireproof.
The hotel opened on August 12, 1892.
One of the long-standing traditions still in practice today is “taking tea” at the Brown Palace. It is served in the atrium lobby, accompanied by either a harpist or piano player. Next time I’m in Denver I plan to partake in said afternoon tea. Anybody want to join me?
My second favorite structure is The Tabor Grand Opera House, built in 1881. Although professional opera was performed in Denver as early as 1860, it wasn’t until The Tabor opened that the city hosted full productions from first class companies. Built by one of Leadville, Colorado’s new millionaires, A. W. Tabor, the opera house was designed specifically to rival Europe’s grandest theaters. No expense was spared. The finest words were used and an impressive chandelier hung high above the parquet floor of the auditorium. The ceiling was 65 feet high. In the center was a circular dome painted to represent a sky with clouds.
The stage was as equally grand as the rest of the building, measuring 72feet wide by 50 feet deep. Large stained glass windows provided ample light for daytime events. There were over 1500 velvet-covered seats in the main auditorium, as well three tiers of private boxes on either side of the stage. If I could take a trip back in time I’d love to take in a performance of the Barber of Seville, a favorite of many Denver residents at the time of the building’s completion.
Which would you rather visit? The hotel or the opera house?