No Place Like Home

One of Denver’s most beautiful—and storied—historic mansions has been remade into a staycation-worthy bed-and-breakfast in the heart of Capitol Hill.

July 2013

It’s late, maybe 1:30 a.m. I’m sitting on the floor of our two-bedroom suite at the Patterson Inn, peering out an east-facing window. Even at this hour, the streets below are alive with the after-midnight crowd for which Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood is known. Every now and again, I glance over at the king-size bed where my husband lies asleep, sure the revelers will have disturbed him. But he does not stir, leaving me alone to consider the remarkable place in which I find myself tonight.

The Patterson Inn, located at the corner of 11th Avenue and Pennsylvania Street, opened as a nine-suite bed-and-breakfast in October 2012, but the mansion is not what you might call new-build. In fact, the nearly 14,000-square-foot red sandstone home with French Chateau and Richardsonian Romanesque features was built in 1891 by Thomas B. Croke, a Denver-area businessman and later a state senator.

Croke bought the land—three lots on what was then known as Block 77 of Brown’s Bluff—and commissioned Isaac Hodgson Jr. to design the main structure and a carriage house. In those days—a few decades after the Pikes Peak gold rush, just 15 years after Colorado became a state, and 17 years before the Capitol building was completed—the elevated east side of Denver was quickly becoming the place to live for the city’s elite. Croke and his family moved into the lavish new home, but, according to historical documents, they didn’t stay long. Although the reason Croke left his recently completed home may never be known, a flailing economy and the silver market crash of 1893 could have been factors that led him to make a real-estate deal with Thomas Patterson, the subsequent and best-known owner of the home.

Although the nighttime air is cool, I open the window and try to imagine what the area might have been like 120 years ago. At that time, Denver bustled with a population of roughly 100,000 inhabitants who worked in wholesale trade, manufacturing, agriculture and ranching, and mining, or for the railroads. Ladies decked out in high-necked, puffy-shouldered blouses and bell-shaped skirts and men in narrow trousers and tailored jackets strolled along these neighborhood streets. Horse-drawn carriages plied the roads. Thomas Patterson—who was a majority owner of the Rocky Mountain News—his wife, Kate, and their two daughters would’ve been seen coming and going from what became known as the Croke-Patterson Mansion, a structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The green glow from the digital clock flashes 2:10 a.m., and I decide it’s finally time to close the window, slide under the down comforter, and shut my eyes. As I tiptoe toward the bed, though, a chill catches my bare legs and a feeling of unease stops me where I stand. I look around the Cheshire suite—a whimsical accommodation with an Alice in Wonderland theme, bright colors, quirky furnishings, and a beautifully renovated bathroom—to see and hear nothing that could’ve caused my angst. I shrug it off, but as I pull up the covers I can’t help but ask myself a question: Could the rumor that the Croke-Patterson Mansion is haunted be true?