Historic Denver mansion gets new life as boutique hotel, bar and restaurant
The Western-inspired hotel brand Urban Cowboy is finally making its way out West with the announcement of a new boutique outpost in the heart of Denver.
Urban Cowboy will open its fourth hotel by the same name and its first location west of the Mississippi sometime in the first half of 2023, according to partners Lyon Porter and Jersey Banks, who was raised in Denver’s Highland neighborhood.
“It’s a homecoming for me,” Banks said. “I’m excited to bring our brand of hospitality to the city where I grew up… .”
Banks and Porter have partnered with GBX Group — the same real estate firm behind the Tom’s Diner preservation — to renovate the George Schleier mansion at 1665 Grant St., a three-story landmark that dates back to the 1880s and still maintains much of its original, ornate detail and architecture, though it’s been used over the past 30 years as office space.
Once open by spring 2023, the finished hotel, bar and restaurant should be reminiscent of Urban Cowboy’s second location, in East Nashville.
“We (re)did an 1800s, Victorian, Queen-Anne mansion in Nashville, with a carriage house,” Porter said. “But unlike Nashville, where we had to put a lot of character back in… this is one of those properties where we just have to be good stewards of it and really not mess it up. It’s truly a fall-in-love-with kind of building.”
The 18-room hotel will feature Urban Cowboy’s design hallmarks, such as free-standing clawfoot tubs in the guestrooms, custom patterned wallpapers and “found” objects from around Colorado. It should all work to create a sort of maximalist West aesthetic; think ’70s color palettes, plus lots of wood, brass and tufted leather accents.
A Parlor Bar by the downstairs lobby will sell wines by the glass, while the Public House inside a separate, two-story carriage house will specialize in house cocktails and a menu of wood-fired pies and small plates created by Roberta’s Pizza, based in Brooklyn.
“We really want to be a neighborhood watering hole and a place that people can go, not only if they’re visiting,” Porter said.
He and Banks started their growing hotel company in 2014, when they opened up a five-bedroom home to B&B guests in Williamsburg “at a moment in time when Brooklyn was emerging,” Porter explained. (They also lived at the Brooklyn location and have since lived at each hotel property.)
After taking the Urban Cowboy brand to Nashville, expanding it to a 28-room lodge in the Catskills, and adding to the portfolio a separate Dive Motel & Swim Club (also in Nashville), they were approached by GBX Group, who saw an opportunity in Denver.
“It can be challenging to find a viable contemporary use for historic buildings and especially historic mansions,” Antonin Robert, GBX president of community development, told The Denver Post over email. “A modern boutique hotel fits nicely within a historic mansion, so partnering with Urban Cowboy allows Denver’s western, cowboy spirit to be preserved while preserving an architecturally significant property downtown.”
For Banks and Porter, Urban Cowboy Denver will be their first hotel project in a city center.
“The city’s changed immensely, and my parents moved away when I did,” Banks said of Denver. “I left when I was 18 and went straight to New York, so it’s nice to come back as an adult and see the city and get to rally the community.”
The couple plan to stay for awhile at their new Denver hotel once it’s open; they now split time between New York and Nashville. And they’ve since closed their original, Williamsburg house to guests, turning it back into a family home and creative studio.
“(Urban Cowboy) is growing as our lives grow,” Banks said, describing how, in 2014, they would work during the day and party all night at the Brooklyn bed and breakfast. By the time they were opening the Catskills Lodge, mid-pandemic, they decided to make that hotel more family-friendly.
“A month later I found out I was pregnant and we were having our own family,” Banks said, “so it’s been an iteration of what’s going on in our lives.”
What’s going on in their lives now is a near-two-year-old daughter, Banks Porter, plus three hotels and another on the way 10 months from now.
“We both didn’t have backgrounds in hospitality, which is funny that we ended up where we did,” Banks said. “We just had this amazing (Brooklyn) space and opened it up to see what would happen. It was very mom-and-pop, bed-and-breakfast when we opened, but in an elevated way. And people really liked it, it caught on and it changed our lives. We couldn’t help ourselves but do more… We just kind of fell in love with it.”
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