THE STORY OF THE BUFFALO ROSE
This isn’t just the story of the collection of buildings that are the Buffalo Rose that we know today. It isn’t a story about wood, brick, steel, fire and stone— not simply a tale of the many businesses that have stood on the site or the colorful characters that have passed through these doors. No, this is the story of Golden City, one of Colorado’s very first municipalities and where our great state has its roots. It is the story of the American West and a rugged frontier spirit. It is a story about architecture and governments, railroads, cars, and motorcycles; shootouts, Olympians, entrepreneurs, and wars— it is a story of great economic expansion and profound depression, of drunken debauchery and of Prohibition. This is the story of The Buffalo Rose, but more importantly for the people of Golden, Colorado: it is Our Story.
The Pulse of Golden
The properties comprising the present day Buffalo Rose have been the pulse of Golden since the City’s founding in 1859. Golden has grown up around the site and the businesses located at the bustling corner of Washington Avenue and 12th Street have provided the commercial lifeblood of the town for well over 150 years! In an embrace of the role this property has played in the history of Golden, loving care was taken in the recent large-scale renovation to retain as many of the historic structures as was feasible and to restore the building exteriors to reflect original architecture as closely as possible. At the same time, the interiors of the buildings were completely overhauled to bring them up to contemporary safety, environmental and comfort standards. As a result of these efforts, The Buffalo Rose is now poised to continue being the pulse of Golden for another 150 years!
Appreciation to local historian Richard Gardner for his insight
into Golden’s unique and captivating past.
1117 Washington Ave, The Buffalo Rose Event Venue
1859 – 1910 When it was built in 1859 as the Overland House, this was Golden’s largest building. Colorado’s Territorial Legislature met here in 1865. It was also here that Generals Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip Sheridan stayed around the time of the Civil War. Outlaw “Heartless” Edward Franklin was cornered and shot by officers in the Overland Hotel in 1868 in a shootout between Denver detectives and the notorious Musgrove Gang.
1922 – 1926 The Overland House was torn down in 1911. A short time later, a large two-story masonry building was erected on the the site. It is this structure that stands today as The Buffalo Rose event venue. In the early days, this building was a garage for some of the first cars made in the United States.
What is now the mezzanine balcony is original to the auto garage. The lines and numbers on south brick wall uncovered during the renovation marked the stalls for the cars. The building ceased being a garage when both the Overland and Jewett automobiles were discontinued in 1926, leading Churches to pursue a creative new business venture .
1928 – 1941 In 1928, Churches Garage became The Golden Plunge, an indoor swimming pool, featuring an oriental style facade with neon “SWIM” sign.
In 1929, the stock market crashed and the Plunge shut down during the Great Depression. Elwood Romney, an ancestral cousin of Mitt Romney, purchased and revived The Golden Plunge in 1938. Mr. Romney hired Nils Christiansen as his swimming instructor. Christiansen, a student at the School of Mines, had competed in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin and had qualified for the 1940 Games that were canceled as a result of the start of World War II. The Golden Plunge finally closed down in 1941 when Romney sold it to the local carpenters’ labor union to convert to their union hall.
1953 – 1985 In 1953, August Gaines Eaker transformed the Plunge building into the Eakers Department Store, of his Colorado department store chain, giving it a new mid-century modernist facade. The department store chain went out of business in 1985 and the building was annexed in to the neighboring Buffalo Rose Saloon.
1985 – Present Over the course of the next 30+ years, the Buffalo Rose became a popular concert venue that hosted thousands of musicians from all over the world. Over this period, the facility was largely unchanged and went through various owners until it was purchased in 2016 by a local Golden developer. In 2018, a major renovation of the properties was undertaken, including a complete overhaul of the event center.
1119 Washington Ave. – The Buffalo Rose Saloon
1859 – 1902 A real piece of the Old West! The International Bowling Saloon was the very first business established on property that is the present day Buffalo Rose Saloon, making The Buffalo Rose the oldest bar in the state of Colorado. The Saloon was a 2-story clapboard building. The second floor inside was taken out in the 1880s when proprietor Gustavus Haas installed a grand orchestrion (a type of large organ) inside his establishment but discovered the ceiling was too low. This organ was a unique attraction that helped to bring female customers to the establishment.
1902 – Present The building was updated to an attractive 1-story brick construction in 1902 by then-owner Paul Ficht. The 1902 building was designed by prominent and locally educated architect James H. Gow, three of whose works (Foothills Art Center, Armory, Quaintance Block) are listed on the National Historic Register for their designs.
1123 Washington Ave. – The Iler Block
Jefferson County’s oldest remaining commercial property. Originally the Mallon & Chamberlain meat market, the building measures only 15’ (Washington Ave.) x 30’ (12th St.). It original featured marble counters harvested from Marble, Colorado, from the very same vein of stone used for The Washington Monument in Washington, DC. The original old-growth pine structure of the Iler Block remains and the remarkable old building now serves as the main entrance and a lounge for the new Buffalo Rose restaurant and bar.
720 12th St. (The Hoagland Building)
The Hoagland Building was built in 1935. It was a nondescript basic brick facade building that served various odd uses over time before being annexed into the Buffalo Rose complex in 1985. The Hoagland Building was partially destroyed by fire in 2001. Given the structural and esthetic challenges associated with the restoration of the Hoagland Building, the remaining structure was torn down during the 2018 remodel project.
712-718 12th St. (The Haas Block)
Gustavus Haas built a 4-storefront brick building on 12th St. in 1881 called the Haas Block. Numerous businesses occupied this building. It ultimately became Kenrow’s Family Restaurant, until it was destroyed by fire in 2000. After the fire, the site was annexed into the Buffalo Rose and converted to a popular outdoor patio favored by motorcycle enthusiasts. A new structure was built on this site in the 2018 renovation. Many of the exterior architectural elements of the original Haas Block were incorporated into the new building along 12th St. and it now features one of Colorado’s only retractable glass roofs. The lively patio remains.