Sunday, June 26, 2016

Keys to the Past - Denver's Albany Hotel

Greetings!  Today's key comes straight from our "Orphan Key" collection.  Our orphan keys contain keys donated to us that have lost tags, or have tags that have faded so badly that they're illegible.  Today's key didn't come with a paper tag, but fortunately, we do have some documentation of where it came from.

This is the key to room 622 in the Albany Hotel in Denver, as noted by the front side of the tag.  As with most old hotel keys, it could be dropped in any mailbox to be returned to the hotel.  On the back of the tag is an advertisement for Continental Rent-a-Car, offering rates of 5 dollars a day, 5 cents a mile.  Wouldn't those prices be fantastic to have today?

The Albany Hotel was first built in 1885, as the product of architect E. P. Brink and financier W. H. Cox.  The vision for the hotel at the time was to provide Denver with an elegant hotel that combined elements of American hotels with French style.  Originally, the hotel featured 155 rooms, in addition to it being one of the few hotels in the city to have electricity in every room.  In 1912, the continued success of the hotel led to the addition of a new annex.  The Salida Mail remarked that the annex held an additional 120 rooms, each with a private bath of its own, which was a big deal at the time.

The original Albany Hotel

The hotel was one of Denver's more notable ones in the early 1900s, with additions adding more features, like a trout pond and continued bathroom renovations.  Large-scale events, including the 1908 Democratic National Convention and the 1906 National Elks Convention, were hosted, and the hotel boasted plenty of famous guests, including Buffalo Bill.  The popularity of the National Western Stock Show also meant that many cowboys and cowgirls would frequent the establishment as well.

Perhaps the biggest issue with the Albany Hotel was its instability in ownership.  The hotel frequently changed owners, usually every few years.  In the 1930s, the newest owners decided to tear down much of the hotel and rebuild it, re-opening in 1938.  The rebuilt portion of the hotel was designed to better match the earlier annex.  Unfortunately, the continued ownership changes helped contribute to the decline of the hotel.  In 1976, after years of slow business, the Albany Hotel shut its doors for good.  It was demolished on November 17th, 1976, to be replaced by a new office building.

The interior of the Albany Hotel's 1912 annex

In the end, the failure of the Albany Hotel was a multitude of factors - an aging facility, inconsistent owners, and an overall lack of business.  The old elegance and charm of the building simply couldn't hold up as well against newer hotels.  The Windsor Hotel, one of the Albany's main competitors from the time period, also came to a similar ending when it was demolished in 1960.  Here at the Baldpate, we are especially fortunate to have made it much longer than the Albany Hotel.

Unfortunately, research into the Continental Rent-a-Car Company from the back side of the key came up with nothing but dead ends, implying the business has been long gone.  But, the low prices prove to be a sign of the times - diners could get lobster at the Albany Hotel's dining room for only 75 cents a hundred years ago.

As always, thank you for joining me on this trip through time!  Though it is regrettable that we don't have the key's paper tag, or that we don't know who provided us with this fantastic key, we remain thankful for the donation.  Bring in your keys (and the stories they tell) to the Key Room!