Denver B+B with a twist

By Nancy Clark

Brace yourself. The sandstone castle at 420 E. 11th Avenue dead in the center of Denver is architecturally captivating. The residence turned apartment house turned office building turned private residence turned B+B has good bones. The beauty of the place was enough to cause Realtor Mary Rae to buy the place in the 1970s to spare it from the wrecking ball. The home at that time was separated into apartments, the woodwork and stained glass still in their original, glorious state.

Purchased in 2011 by Brian Higgins, architect and principal at RAW Architecture located on Larimer Street, it took 18 months to transform the house into a luxe 9-room gem from its most recent iteration as a personal residence left vacant for some time. It was the last family to live in the house that took chilling stories of the haunting public. Denver listening audiences still remember the innocent 3-year-old on local radio telling of his imaginary friend who lived with him in the house. As one of three triplets born while his parents called the place home, he opened up about his friend that others couldn’t see…but he could. The mother had a story of her own. She’d been über preggers with triplets and found herself unable to turn over in bed. An apparition held out a hand and offered her assistance with a brogue that told her origin: Ireland.

A scare with a chaser.

Built in 1891 by Thomas B. Croke when gentlemen were made of myth and the ones with money stood heads and shoulders above the rest, the mansion rose up on a on a stretch of residential that included other formidable homes, Molly Brown’s included.  Croke suffered losses in the Silver Crash and sold the home he’d never lived in to an appropriate buyer, Thomas M. Patterson, a U.S. Congressman and Senator as well as being Publisher of the Rocky Mountain News. His family occupied the massive residence for the next 24 years. 

Higgins and his mother Gloria were undeterred in the ambitious remodel even when a fire broke out on the second floor sitting area. Much of the building had to be finished a second time in the cleanup. And in the end, Higgins will admit to spending more than $1M and less than $2M to make the place guest ready.

The rooms are located on the first, second and third floors and each is influenced with a distinct look from French Country to whimsical Alice in Wonderland. Close observation shows the tribute paid to its proud history. (The building has historic designation from the Landmark Preservation Commission, Colorado State Register of Historic Properties, and the National Register of Historic Places.) To wit: where traditional bathroom flooring would feature hexagonal white tile trimmed and dotted in black. This tile, however, features round dots…a subtle difference yet symbolic of the modern amenities now built into each of the spacious bedrooms.

If there’s something haunting about the bar in the renovated basement, it’s from the Burnsley Hotel, another Capitol Hill landmark until it closed in 2012. The bar was cut in two, one half installed in the Patterson Inn basement bar recently christened Maggie’s Pub and the other half installed in an event room, formerly the carriage house.

Behind these doors, guests can enjoy a deep sleep under down duvets or bathe using products that are recycled through Clean the World, a nonprofit organization that recycles soap and bottled bathroom products to be distributed to homeless shelters and poverty-stricken countries worldwide where disease due to lack of hygiene are deadly.

The rates start at $169. Learn more at

Revel in a bygone era replete with all of today’s conveniences. Take a break and learn about the lives behind the history. And above all else be un-afraid. Very unafraid.


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