St. Elmo Hotel, 1433 17th Street
Two blocks uptown from the Welcome Arch the St. Elmo was one of many, many hotels that promised rest to travelers arriving at Union Station, Denver. Taking advantage of the recovering economy after the 1893 Silver Bust, it was built in 1896. This picture, by L. C. McClure was taken after 1908, the year the Welcome Arch was erected. Automobiles were vying for the streets with horses, bicycles and street railways. That fight still continues to this day, although only Larimer Square and 16th Mall boast horse drawn carriage rides.
The name sake of the hotel, St. Elmo, died in the year 303. He is the patron saint of sailors because of a near miss by a lighting bolt was compared to the electrical discharge on the tall masts of ships during a storm, called St. Elmo’s Fire. It is not known to this writer why the land locked hotel was named for a sailor’s protector. Nikola Tesla was able to produce St. Elmo’s Fire on demand with his experimental electrical equipment when he worked in Colorado Springs in 1899.
The first St. Elmo was a lodging house at 831 Larimer Street. The new St. Elmo came in 1896. At that time Mrs. T. Haffner was listed as the proprietor. Not far away, Louis Haffner was the proprietor of the Railroad Hotel at 1717 18th Street. It is not know what the exact relationship was to Mrs. T. Haffner. But it looks like the hotel business ran in the family.
In 1899 Alexander E. Irwin was manager of the hotel. He lived a few blocks away at 1152 Stout. The hotel had its own solicitor, runner, porter, clerks, engineer, cook and janitor. It provided rooms to a dentist, miller, actor, mine & smelter supplier, electrician, printer, salesperson, artist and window dresser. For many years there was a roof top sign advertising Schlitz Beer.
The address for the hotel’s restaurant was 1425 17th Street. It was operated by J.E. Noble. In 1911, the menu boasted plain steak for $.30, T-bone steak for $.60, a whole tenderloin steak for $.65 and porterhouse steak for $.75. Pickled lambs tongue cost two bits and fried rabbit was forty cents. And please, no dogs allowed. The cook in 1915 was Charles J. Brew and roomed at the American House. J. E. Noble lived at the St. Elmo Hotel.
The building proprietor changed to Mrs. H. J. Charlton in or near 1911. The proprietor changed again in 1915 to Mr. & Mrs. E.A. Apted. Just three years earlier E. A. was listed as the checkman at Union Depot & Ry. Co., living at 1646 Arapahoe. Their children Eugene and Pearl Marie, who were students, also lived at the hotel. John K. Apted (relationship unknown) was the manager at the Lewis Block Hotel at 1646 Arapahoe. There must have been a family connection. Eugene A. was listed as a salesman in 1920, living at 2813 High Street. Only his daughter is listed in the city directory, living as the same address and working as a stenographer. The house is now gone, the site of the Ford-Warren Branch Library.
In 1928 Bass Hamilton was proprietor. The hotel changed hands again, in 1934 Helen J. Gagron and Thomas V. Hackett are proprietor and manager. By 1937 Harold G. Sparks was the proprietor. The hotel must never produced the promised income, passing the business from one owner to the next. The hotel sat empty for a while. In 1980 it was renovated and rented as offices and restaurant space. In 2007 it was bought for $4.1 by Mike Plante. The building has 18,214 square feet of space. Southern Hospitality restaurant, there since 2014, called it quits recently. Slice Works Pizzeria is open for business on the Blake street side of the building.
The building still has great details.
Sources: DPL, the 17th street arch picture is a LC McClure picture from Amy Zimmer’s book, LOST DENVER. I did the magnification and notation. Menu found on Ebay, (but too expensive to purchase, $75.00!!).
Additions, comments and corrections are welcomed.
Thanks, JOE S