OUR HISTORY The Denver Press Club is the oldest press club in the United States
The original main floor interior of the Press Club’s historic building shortly after it opened in 1925 as photographed by Harry Rhoads. A photographer for 60 years with stints at the Denver Post, the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Republican, Rhoads was a regular at the Denver Press Club. (Pictured Right)
The Denver Press Club is the oldest press club in the United States. Denver journalists met as "a press club" in 1867 and incorporated as "the Denver Press Club" in 1877, a year after Colorado became the 38th state. Ardent political and professional rivals in print, the editors still found time to tap into the barrel of "Taos Lightening," discuss events of the day and play a little poker.
Membership soon outgrew the basement of Wolfe Londoner's grocery store on Larimer Street and the club held court at a variety of Denver hotels including the prestigious Brown Palace Hotel.
Under the direction of Press Club President Edward Keating, fifty newspapermen sat down for lunch at the Albany Hotel in March 1905 to re-organize the club. Newspaper accounts reported the revamping of the press club would "prove the most elaborate and satisfactory association of the kind ever attempted in an American city."
In addition to being a social gathering place for the Fourth Estate, the Denver Press Club also utilized their contacts in the entertainment and political world and brought national performers, orators and national conventions to Denver.
Theodore Roosevelt was one of two presidents to receive an honorary membership in the form of a solid gold-and-silver membership card to the Denver Press Club. President William Taft received the other gold-and-silver honorary membership card. When President Warren Harding visited the press club, he was scheduled to receive an oversized red-and-blue editorial pencil as his honorary membership to the Denver Press Club. President Woodrow Wilson was also among the visiting presidents to spend time in the Denver Press Club.
Club president Edward Keating was successful in bringing the prestigious International League of Press Clubs to Denver in 1906. The membership of several thousand elected him as their 1907 president.
The national and international attention earned by the Denver Press Club helped draw attention to Denver for the 1908 National Democratic Convention. Candidate William J. Bryan was a frequent visitor to the Denver Press Club. With several hundred reporters and editors covering the convention, the Denver Press Club served dual purposes as press headquarters and organizers of the convention's social entertainment.
After wearing out their welcome at most of the leading hotels in Denver, the board of directors decided to sell their boarding-house investment property at 1330 Glenarm Place and build a permanent "press clubhouse" in 1925. The building was designed by architects Merill H. and Burnham Hoyt, the latter of whom also designed the Denver Public Library, Daniels & Fisher department store, and the Red Rocks Amphitheater.
In 1986, the club building was honored by the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission with the club's designation as a Historic Landmark. The Society for Professional Journalists designed the Denver Press Club as one of their recipients as a "significant historical place in journalism" in 2008.
The Denver Press Club was built by Francis Kirchof for approximately $50,000, paid mostly with the sale of Who's Who in the Rockies. The self-promotion book enabled local dignitaries to have their photographs and biographies published in the gold-leaf, leather-bound book for a modest payment.
Today, the club's nearly 500 members represent print and broadcast media, advertising and public relations, and an assortment of other professions. The roster has included Pulitzer Prize journalists, cartoonists and other notables that feature Damon Runyon, Eugene Field, Gene Fowler, Frederick G. Bonfils, Palmer Hoyt, Lowell Thomas, Lee Taylor Casey, Paul Conrad, Pat Oliphant, Thomas Hornsby Ferril, Carl Akers, Starr Yelland, Stormy Rottman, Lou Kilzer, Greg Lopez, Bob Palmer, Gene Amole, Sam Lusky, and Don Kinney.
The Denver Press Club's cornerstone Damon Runyon Award is presented to a person or persons whose career has embodied the style and verve of the legendary DPC alumnus. Proceeds from the event benefit the club's scholarship fund and building maintenance.
As one of the few press clubs that maintains its own building, the Denver Press Club has excellent facilities for serving both its members and the community at large. In addition to complete meal and bar service on its main level, the club offers a large meeting and banquet facility on the second floor.
The basement contains a billiards room that attracts many an animated match, and a card room where regular poker games have been held since the day the club opened.
The card room is named for the late Herndon Davis, a Colorado artist and Press Club regular best remembered for his internationally known painting of "The Face On The Bar Room Floor" at the Teller House in Central City. The room is dominated by a Davis mural produced in 1945 which depicts an allegorical Denver newsroom in which the best-known newspapermen and women of the time are pictured plying their trade. The two side wings of the mural have portraits of other well-known personalities who were local newsmakers of that era.
-- Alan J. Kania, club historian
URBAN MYTHS: WHAT'S A LANDMARK BUILDING WITHOUT A GHOST
One of the DPC's resident spirits in a floral dress by the fireplace. Photo by Dick Nosbisch, Photo Historian for the Denver Press Club (Pictured Right)
As dusk was settling over Denver on Saturday night, Bryan Bonner was also settling in to do what he general does on a Saturday night…ghost-busting.
This is not a profitable business, but rather one borne out of the fascination Bonner has always held for the occult and the inexplicable. He doesn’t work alone. In fact he has a crew of fellow ghost-busters who work alongside him including Intuitives—people with a special gift to “feel” the energy fields surrounding ghosts and the unseen—and technogeeks who operate the loads of highly specialized equipment that Bonner uses to detect the existence of ghosts—technology enough to fill a 12 ft. by 16 ft. space when compacted together.
Bonner is a calm sort. He holds a job by day with a Fortune 500 company, builds websites on the side, and regularly comes to the rescue. Often his work is for historical purposes, verifying the unusual in buildings known for their infamous histories—like Mattie Silks’ former bordello-turned-restaurant in Lodo. And then there’s the unusual case (recall “Amityville Horror”) in which the ghosts possess the humans trying to occupy a home. Bonner actually has an email on record from a mother who called upon his services to rid her home of ghosts tormenting her four-year-old son. She wrote: “It’s good to have my son back.”
As his crew lugged equipment into the Denver Press Club Saturday (the club is reputed to be haunted by a male ghost named “Charlie” and a female in a blue dress.) Bonner’s Intuitives roamed the building, peering into every nook and cranny, under the stairwells and into storage closets. (There’s always a ghost under the bed.) They paused in each room to take in the vibrations. Both Intuitives were drawn to the business office where they proclaimed, “This is it. Feel the energy. It’s along that wall by the safe. Do you feel the rage?” they looked at each other knowingly.
“I really don’t want to hear any more,” I, the informal tour guide, pleaded before taking leave.
Later that night, a DPC member dropped by to check on the ghost-busters’ findings and found that the pilot light in the boilder room had gone out. Xcel responded to cut the gas to the boiler which was last replaced in 1995 after the old one broke in a weeklong occurrence of sub-zero weather. Then, the club’s bartender Justin had to spend the night in the place monitoring propane heaters to keep the pipes from freezing. And fortunately for the historically cash-poor club, the membership had raised just enough from it’s ’95 Damon Runyon dinner featuring Jimmy Breslin to fund the new boiler.
At 3 a.m., the ghost-buster-turned-gas-busters vacated the club having witnessed nothing particularly haunting…except if you count the fact that the pilot light had never before extinguished on its own. Call it coincidence. Call it rage. Call the club president.
Which I did. “I’m afraid I may have to resign as treasurer. The ghost-busters discovered The Rage surrounding the club safe.”
He burst out laughing, “Think about it. For the entire existence of the club the rage has revolved around the safe.”
It’s enough to spook your inner spirit: Isn’t coincidence sometimes unsettling? And do the ghosts we battle come in other forms than what darkness causes us to expect?
By Nancy Clark, First published in The Denver Daily News