November 9, 2012, by Lynn Brewer
First Bite Boulder kicks off today, and many local restaurants are offering diners a prix fixe three-course dinner, including Q’s Restaurant. (Click here to see the menu they are offering.) To celebrate First Bite, I thought I’d share some interesting tidbits of the history behind the Boulderado dining room, where Q’s now calls home.
Upon our opening on New Year’s Day of 1909, a newspaper article in the Daily Camera touted all the luxuries the Hotel Boulderado had to offer. In addition to the guestrooms and the building, the reporter commented on the dining room and kitchen as well:
“The spacious dining room, with its snowy linen, polished silver, and delicate bouquets, gave promise of the tempting delicacies and huge banquets that are to come. The kitchen, with its massive ranges and variety of modern conveniences, appeared equal to the tasks of furnishing the best and the most that could be demanded of it. The handsome electric chandeliers, the exquisitely patterned rugs, the profuse decoration of palms, ferns, and flowers, the beautiful music of the orchestra, all added to the sum to make a perfect total.”
The above photo is how the dining room looked; it was so formal that there were no waitresses on the staff, only waiters, who wore white gloves while serving, and tables were set with small bowls of water so guests could wash their fingers between courses.
Over the past century, the dining room at the Hotel Boulderado has undergone a multitude of changes and renovations, as has most of the original building. We’ve done our best to keep anything original intact, even if it has to be moved somewhere else. Case in point: the photo below may look to you like an empty hallway. But the three light fixtures you see in it date back to the hotel’s opening and were originally located in the dining room.
On the same floor on the other side of the building, you’ll find a chair sitting in a corner (below photo), which is the most recent addition to the living history museum on the west side of the third floor at the Hotel Boulderado. The story is that we’ve had this chair in storage for many years, but it was only recently that we sent it out to have the cane seat replaced by a skilled tradesman who specializes in antique pieces.
If you happen to stop by Q’s Restaurant during First Bite Boulder, be sure to take the Otis elevator up to the third floor to explore the antiques and learn more about what it was like to live like the Victorians would.
August 3, 2012, by Lynn Brewer
The world has been consumed with the Olympics for the past week, especially because the London games marks what is being called the most social Olympics ever. Here at the Hotel Boulderado, which is more than 4,600 miles from London, we are also gearing up for the USA ProCycling Challenge later this month that will literally race by us on Spruce Street. All these sporting events made me think about the Victorians, and what sports they enjoyed. Several Olympic events can trace their popularity back to the Victorian era, including tennis, cycling, and football (that’s soccer to us in the U.S.).
Lawn tennis became a popular past time for middle-class women in the Victorian era, who enjoyed the simple act of paddling the ball back and forth across a lawn. The game became far more competitive when men got caught up in the new craze and started keeping score. It wasn’t long before summer resorts began offering the activity and magazines were spotted detailing the proper clothes to wear while playing.
Football had been around for centuries by the time the Victorians started playing, but they made it a point to establish official rules of play. The first Football Association Cup was played in 1871 and inspired many to start their own local football clubs. Initially, football was meant to keep people healthy and encourage a sense of fair play, but this latter goal apparently wasn’t being observed enough as free kicks and penalty kicks had to be introduced in 1877 and 1891, respectively, to discourage foul play.
Cycling is something very near and dear to the hearts of many in Boulder, but few of them realize that they have the Victorians to thank for inventing the bicycle in the 1880’s. None of them probably think about the bicycle’s initial reception into society, which ranged from ministers decrying it as a “diabolical device of the demon of darkness . . . imbued with a wild and Satanic nature” to being lauded as the cure-all for humanity’s ills. The first bicycles featured the big wheel in front with the tiny one in back, as seen in this photo.
This model became difficult for women to ride on because of their long skirts. After trying tricycles for women and shorter riding skirts (which were deemed too threatening to ladies’ morals and reputation), the current incarnation of the bicycle with two same-sized wheels were introduced.
The reason so many sports took off during the Victorian era was because of the sudden creation of the middle class. Their new wealth and leisure time meant people could have a sporting hobby, something that up until then had been solely the joy of the super wealthy. While watching the rest of the Olympic games this summer, think about how different they would be without the sports made popular by the Victorians.
June 22, 2012, by Lynn Brewer
We have been so busy with all the Boulderado weddings this season that we have been neglecting our poor blog! To make up for it, I wanted to share a bit about how the Victorians have influenced our modern-day weddings. They are more closely connected than you might think. The Victorians completely reinvented weddings in their time, as they did most customs, and many of today’s traditions stem from that most Victorian of all the Victorians, Queen Victoria.
When Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840, she single-handedly created the “white wedding”: white flowers, white icing on the cake (dubbed “royal” icing because of the expense), and even the iconic white wedding dress can all be traced back to Her Royal Majesty’s wedding. The white dress marked a dramatic departure in wedding fashion; up until then, a woman would be married in the nicest dress she owned, while a white dress was a symbol of wealth, extravagance, and status. But Queen Victoria wasn’t all pomp and circumstance, as she had her wedding gown re-styled for later use. (Apparently the custom of only wearing the wedding dress once didn’t appear until the mid-twentieth century.)
Queen Victoria was not the only trend-setting Victorian. When her daughter (also named Victoria) walked down the aisle with the Prince of Prussia, she added choral music to her procession. (Up until then, it was tradition to just have music during the wedding reception, not the ceremony itself.) More familiar modern traditions like diamond rings and honeymooning also got their start in the Victorian era, as African diamond mines were discovered in the 1870s and travel became more affordable to the middle class.
If you happen to be a guest at a Boulderado wedding this summer, remember to raise your glass in toast to the Victorians!
March 23, 2012, by Lynn Brewer
Denver’s Restaurant Week has come and gone for another year. Seeing all the fabulous menus and tasting all the flavors the local chefs are able to dream up is always fun to see, but it invariably inspires me to dream about what it would have been like to dine at the Hotel Boulderado back when ladies were ladies and gentlemen were gentlemen – in other words, during the Victorian era, when the Boulderado was being built. Did you know that it wasn’t fashionable for women to eat out in restaurants until about the 1860s? (I personally find it hard to imagine such a thing, but that’s how history works some time.) When it came time for the Victorians to eat, they made an event out of it! Dressing up was absolutely necessary, as they considered any outside dining event after 6pm a formal occasion.
In a Victorian house, each room had a specific purpose, and the dining room was one of the most important rooms in the entire home. Mealtime was an opportunity for prosperous people to show off their wealth, which they did with rich foods, the use of fine china and silverware, and servants. Extensive décor in the dining room could have included massive furniture, stuffed birds in cages, potted plants, huge mirrors, and ceramic and china figurines, among other items. George Matel explains:
“The goal of the hostess was to display every piece of fine china, stemware and silver she owned, so it wasn’t uncommon to find 24 piece place settings including up to eight different forks each with their own special purpose. Add to that an additional 8 knives, game shears, seven pieces of stemware for water, wine, sherry and more, a dinner plate, and a bread plate containing a single piece of bread.” George Matel, “Victorian Dining and Dining Etiquette”
Most formal Victorian dinners were similar to our modern all-you-can-eat buffet, but the food was brought to you in an exhaustive multi-course meal. Dinner parties could include up to seventy dishes!
Ironically, with all their formality and pomp and circumstance, the Victorians migrated towards simpler foods than their predecessors. They preferred simpler tastes and flavors as opposed to extravagant flavorings that would drown out the main ingredients. (However, elaborate dishes were another way to show off your cook’s skills, and by extension, your own wealth.) New advances in science and technology during the 19th century helped the Victorians eat better and more varied foods than was previously available. For example, fish could be eaten by people who were living inland because the combination of ice and railways meant the fish could be kept fresh and transported over long distances.
Food itself wasn’t the only thing improving thanks to technological advances; cooking and storing the food improved in the 19th century. Ovens and ranges developed to the point where temperature could be controlled, meaning a cook could prepare complicated meals that before had only been eaten by the wealthy. Ice chests became common, triggering the late Victorian fad for ice cream and sorbets. We have an ice box on display here at the Boulderado.
Tinned, or canned food, also grew by leaps and bounds in the Victorian era. Up until then, the process was so expensive and time-consuming that only the military used canned goods. While techniques were improving there was also an increased demand from the growing urban populations for large amounts of cheap, easy to store food while still offering a variety. A lot of companies got their start providing quality canned foods, including familiar names like Heinz and Nestle.
Leaving the dinner table had its own procedure, according to the Victorians. After the last course had been eaten, servants would bring a small water-filled bowl to each guest so the ladies and gentlemen could wash their fingers. (When the Boulderado first opened, this practice was in place in our dining room, but our waiters filled in for the servants’ role.) The hostess would signal to the ladies that it was time to leave by making strong eye contact with the woman seated to the host’s right before standing. A nearby gentleman (or servant, if one wasn’t available) opened the door to allow the women to retire to the drawing room. The men would remain at the dinner table for more conversation but were also free to withdraw to the library to enjoy a cigar or glass of port. How many of you who participated in Restaurant Week finished off your meal with such luxuries?
March 1, 2012, by Lynn Brewer
Whew! 365 days of photographing and blogging sure takes a lot of you. To give myself some time to rest, and to share a cool result of the 365 project, I wanted to do one blog post showing the exterior shots taken through different seasons. On the first of each month, I took a photo of the hotel from the same street corner at about the same time of day. These are the results.
February 28, 2012, by Lynn Brewer
February 27, 2012, by Lynn Brewer
Most people who know me know I work out of a closet in our office, Cubby. I wanted to share what it looks like, but it’s a tough spot to photograph! I finally settled on a 360 degrees shot that lets you see everything at once. To view it larger and in more detail, visit this link.
February 26, 2012, by Lynn Brewer
As my 365 Days photo project comes to a close, I’ve been reflecting on what I DIDN’T manage to photograph and share. At the top of this list is a blooming Boulderado double daylily. Ruth Schultz, who cultivated the Boulderado Double Daylily, generously gave us some bulbs that we planted on Spruce Street. Last summer, they sprouted and grew but didn’t mature before winter arrived. I had hoped to be able to share a photo of them blooming, and I haven’t given up on that hope, but it will come to late for the 365 Days of Boulderado Photos.
February 25, 2012, by Lynn Brewer
One thing I’ve learned working at a historic hotel is that whatever up-to-the-minute technology you have will become obsolete, like our radio. With that being said, I am very excited about the latest round of upgrades taking place in our guest rooms. We have begun the process of swapping out the alarm clock radios and are replacing them with models that you can plug your iPod into. Eventually (and inevitably) these will become obsolete, but for the meantime, I know our guests will love them!
February 24, 2012, by Lynn Brewer
Every time I feel the “winter blues” coming on, I force myself down to the lobby and focus on the beautiful fresh flowers Living Interiors bring in each week. How can you look at them and NOT think of spring?