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

Although the light of day helps, there’s little argument that the Croke-Patterson Mansion—now the Patterson Inn—looks haunted from the outside. There’s the vaulted, multilevel dark gray roof. The turrets and towers. The small windows in odd locations. It’s got that Beauty and the Beast, creepy-old-castle vibe. But Brian Higgins—the Denver architect who fell in love with the old house, bought it with his family, and fully renovated it—isn’t keen on talking about the eerie folklore that surrounds his property. Instead, he wants people to think of it as an upscale and charming inn nestled into one of Denver’s hippest urban communities.

And, of course, the Patterson Inn is both of those things. Rooms start at $169 per night, a rate that includes a wine and hors d’oeuvres hour as well as a breakfast of quiches, meats, cheeses, pastries, fruit, juices, coffee, and teas in the dining room. The refinished hardwoods, the original stained glass windows, the detailed plasterwork, the 1890s-era weight-and-pulley windows, the restored chandeliers—the house is simultaneously old and new, and decidedly enchanting. Each bedroom’s decor is loosely based on a movie—Prague takes its cue from Harry Potter, the Library from Clue—and has a smattering of one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture and complementary artwork. The beds are unquestionably comfortable. The bathrooms have amazing showers. The flat-screens are what you wish you had in your own home. And the location is within walking distance of some of the city’s trendiest restaurants, coolest bars, and most popular tourist attractions.
Still, it’s hard to ignore the Patterson’s past and the mysterious anecdotes—some real, some unconfirmed—that the mansion can’t seem to shake. Tales abound of a frail female spirit who roams the home’s grand staircase; of eerie cries of an infant from a bygone era; of dogs living in the house that jumped to their deaths from the third-level tower room window; of the cold spot just in front of the large mirror in the main foyer; and of the suicide of a doctor’s wife from cyanide gas poisoning. Higgins knows the stories. In fact, he was so acutely aware of the house’s history and associated legends that he decided to film the demolition and renovation process, which began in October 2011 and lasted through September 2012.

When Higgins bought the mansion for $565,000—a bargain for the area—he knew he would need to spend at least that much to rehabilitate the dilapidated home. The red sandstone on the exterior was in need of repair. The plumbing and most of the electrical would need to be replaced. And he’d have to install an elevator. Although there were hiccups along the way—like knocking down a ceiling only to find another ceiling above it, and an unexplained fire on the second floor just days before the inn was supposed to open—Higgins says the overhaul didn’t give him more than he could handle as an architect and developer. In other ways, though, the house did divulge more than he could’ve imagined.

“We pulled items out of the walls that really took us back to the early days of the house,” Higgins says. “Things like old children’s clothing, a newspaper from 1891, eyeglasses from the turn of the century, clips from a garter belt, and a large candle from the ’40s.” Higgins even found small, old glass vials about the size of AA batteries that had been thrown into a fireplace. There is, of course, no way to determine to whom the items belonged; however, Higgins knows these details—as well as his forthcoming documentary film—will only add to the rich lore of the Croke-Patterson Mansion.