Friday, June 13, 2008

Adams Hotel

With the recent departure of the Adams Mark name from Denver, I began to think of all of the hotels that have been in Denver over the past 150 years. The longest lived are the Oxford (1891) and the Brown (1892). Others have been long gone, their buildings demolished to make way for parking lots such as the Cosmopolitan suffered in 1984 (a planned high rise never got off the ground!) Or, they were victims of urban decay such as the Inter-Ocean, lost circa 1970. Or...yet again...they were unceremoniously demolished for no good reason that I can find, such as the Windsor, lost in 1959.

Less grand, but no less part of downtown, was the Adams Hotel which once stood at the northeast corner of 18th and Welton. It was demolished around 1969 to make way for a bank drive through area and parking lot. It today exists as an abandoned bank drive through site.

The Adams Hotel opened for business in 1902. It was designed by the Baerresen Brothers Architects. It was noted for the large copper dome atop the structure. In addition, information included with this picture states that when it opened, there were innovations such as the use of a push button elevator along with there being telephones in every room. Note the bicycles in the picture above.

circa 1910

circa 1920

The two pictures above show the Adams Hotel and the Empire Hotel. The Empire stood at 18th and Glenarm. Most interstingly however, we can see a small building in between the two. This space also shows up in the picture at the top of this blog. We see a small Second Empire style home occupying the spot in 1902. Later, we see a store front on the site above. talked about this very block in July of 2007. In that blog, we learn that Shelby's Bar and Grill is housed in that same building we see in the picture. Amazingly, it bills itself as one of the oldest buildings in downtown Denver. Without more research, it's hard to say if the current Shelby's is housed in a converted Second Empire home or if that house was demolished in 1907 to make way for the current building. Either way, Shelby's currently sits alone in a sea of parking and an abandoned bank drive through!

What did we lose with the closure and demolition of the Adams Hotel in 1969? Many would argue that its removal helped add new vitality to downtown Denver as more people were able to come into the city and find a place to park or bank conveniently. But the economics of parking aside, as with so much of our lost downtown history, the removal of the Adams Hotel also removed any context we had of a once vibrant area of our city. The only reminder seems strangely out of place--Shelby's Bar and Grill at 519 18th Street.

Not even this 1953 remodel of the interior could save the Adams from its fate. The hotel interior at some point was designed by Gilbert Jaka. He was influential during the early 1930s designing the stunning Art Deco Cruise Room at the Oxford Hotel, along with some other Art Deco style homes in Park Hill. Without knowing more about Mr. Jaka, it is hard to know if the above decoration represents his work, although it is unlikely since it is definitely not Art Deco. No other interior pictures of the Adams Hotel have been located. If there were other Art Deco finishes inside, its demolition is an even greater loss for our city.

Just so we don't get too down on ourselves about changes to the city over the last 150 years, this picture illustrates that without change, our city would not be what it is today. This is Denver, circa 1880. In this picture, the direction of north is on the right. In the middle left, we see the intersection of 18th Avenue and Broadway. The Trinity Methodist Church would be constructed here in 1888. At the left center, we see a triangular piece of land that would become the Brown Palace Hotel in 1892. Across the street from that land, we see the Brinker Institute, that thankfully, we can still see today!! It is known as the Navarre Building. And in the center right of the picture, we see land that by 1902 would become the Adams Hotel. All of those homes are gone today. The closest examples are at 21st and Glenarm. See my last blog to learn about that!

At least we have pictures.....

For additional information on Block 176, home of Shelby's, click here to be taken to

All black and white historic photos are from the Denver Public Library's Western History Collection.


Cool said...

Hey Shawn, I have a question about Denver hotels. I found your post after searching for a vernacular 2nd Empire hotel in Denver. I'm a student at Colorado Community College and am doing some research on 2nd Empire lodging. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks!

Shawn Snow said...

If you see this response, email me at and I'd be happy to point you in the right direction.