As one of the most historic Denver hotels, The Oxford has quite a colorful past. After the arrival of the railroads in 1870, the small mining supply town of Denver had mushroomed into the regional metropolis of the High Plains and the Rocky Mountains. Adolph Zang, whose Zang Brewing Company was the biggest prohibition producer in the Rockies, realized the need for a first-class hotel near Union Station. By 1890, Denver was the third largest city in the West, after San Francisco and Omaha.
The Oxford Hotel is Denver’s oldest grand hotel and was originally constructed in 1891. Colorado’s leading architect, Frank E. Edbrooke, designed this five-story brick structure the year before he designed the BrownPalace, thus making The Oxford Hotel truly the oldest historic Denver hotel.
The classical simplicity of The Oxford’s exterior belied an extravagant interior, as opening day guests discovered on October 3, 1891. This luxury downtown Denver hotel, according to the Rocky Mountain News, sported the latest in gadgets and technology as well as Gilded Age opulence. The hotel had its own power plant and the most perfect system of steam heating, electric and gas lighting, and on each floor bathrooms had separate water closets with the latest improved sanitary appliances. The kitchen, added the News, is located so that none of the odor can possibly permeate through the house, and is provided with a series of ranges, broilers and all the utensils known to the culinary art. Dining tables glistened with cut, engraved glassware and Haviland China and silverware inscribed “Oxford.” In a separate dining room for gentlemen only, merchants and bankers, politicos and attorneys, could feast privately before getting down to cigars and business. Antique oak furniture, marble and carpet floors, frescoed walls, silver chandeliers and stained glass glistened inside. Every room had an abundance of light and air because Edbrooke wrapped the hotel around a light well. With its own dining rooms, barber shop, a library, a pharmacy, a Western Union office, stables and a splendid saloon serving Zang’s “Fritz Imperial,” The Oxford was and still is an authentic Denver hotel, a city within a city.
Another novelty, the “vertical railway” or elevator, carried guests to the upper stories for a bird’s-eye view of the mushrooming metropolis. From the windows of The Oxford’s upper floors, one could safely watch the bustle on Seventeenth Street. Tourists, street vendors, businessmen, bums, shady ladies, families, and a pack of con-men that included Doc Baggs, Bat Masterson and Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith thronged the street, dodging horses and hacks, streetcars and delivery wagons.
Built during the crest of Colorado’s silver bonanza, The Oxford survived the Silver Panic of 1893 although one of its owners, Mygatt, did not. He sold his third interest to Job A. Cooper, who had just stepped down as governor of Colorado in 1891. The governor, like Zang and Feldhauser, retained a lifelong interest in the hotel. Their persistence paid off, for while banks, railroads and mines collapsed, The Oxford prospered.
For more information and a visual timeline of the events that make up the Oxford’s rich history, please download our Art and History Brochure (1.3mb).