Colorado Gallery

The Navarre Building

#98 2016-12-01

Across Tremont Place from the Brown Palace Hotel was the Navarre Cafe and Restaurant in this early 1950s photo.

The building was completed in 1880, as The Brinker Collegiate Institute, a school to promote Christian values for young ladies. It thereafter became co-educational, run by founder Joseph Brinker until his death in 1889.

After Brinker died the building was sold and remodeled to become the "lavishly refurnished" Hotel Richelieu, earning the reputation as a "sporting house" or bordello.

The Brown Palace Hotel was completed in 1892, along with a legendary tunnel linking it to Richelieu's wine cellar. It was said the tunnel under Tremont invited Brown Palace clientele to discreetly dine in private in the company of Richelieu's women.

Navarre c.late 1890s

The story continues with the building being lost in a card game and then renamed after the French King Henry of Navarre, (1553-1610), "a devotee of high living".

But in 1904, Mayor Robert Speer ended all gambling and prostitution at the Navarre! It became a respectable high-end dining club...although illicit activities likely continued at least well into the 1920s.


With much competition it must have been tough going for Denver restaurants and hotels in the 1930s

Boggio's high-end restaurant and the Cosmopolitan Hotel annex with its many eateries and night spots began operations in the 1920s, both very short walks from the Navarre and Brown Palace.

And with Prohibition ending in 1933, Brown's Ship Tavern and many other like establishments also opened for business.

This unmarked Broadmoor ashtray reads "Good Things to Eat". It was likely made at their Denver plant in 1938.

And this old matchbook cover: "Dine Fine at the old Navarre".

Johnny H Ott managed the Old Navarre beginning in the late 1940s. This postcard from the early 1950s reads, "Original Bar at the Old Navarre, Denver, John Ott, Proprietor" and "You 'Dine Fine' at Johnny Ott's famous Old Navarre"

And this ad reads, "Food is excellent -- and reasonable!"

Finally, this 1950s menu reads, "Johnny Ott Welcomes You to the Navarre", and "Private Dining Rooms for Private Dining".


In 2011 we took these shots across Tremont from the Brown Palace Hotel sidewalk. The building looked to be restored in excellent condition.

We understand after Johnny Ott the restaurant reopened in the late 1960s by jazz clarinetist Peanuts Hucko.

Hucko's place was known as the "Hottest Jazz Club in Denver" and at times even featured the big-name bands of Benny Goodman and Louis Armstrong.

In 1997 The Anschutz Corporation acquired and restored the building. Today it is home to the American Museum of Western Art and a few foundation offices.

Please contact us if you have insights on this or other topics. Thank you.