A picture-perfect teatime is incomplete without steaming scones and delicate, flowery chinaware. But imagine taking a sumptuous tea in luxurious surroundings, like an eight-story atrium with Florentine arches, intricate copperized cast-iron panels on balconies, 12,400 surface feet of golden onyx and a stained-glass skylight. Such opulence would feel like a dream—yet this romantic milieu has thrived in the Mile-High City since the late nineteenth century.
This elegant haven—truly an oasis in a region that explorer Stephen H. Long labeled as “the Great American Desert” (circa 1820)—was named Denver’s Brown Palace after its original owner Henry C. Brown.
The famed triangular hotel cost millions of dollars to build. As the crown jewel of architect Frank E. Edbrooke’s portfolio (which included the Tabor Grand Opera House), Brown Palace contributed to the lush history of a developing American West. It became a symbol of good taste, status and impeccable hospitality thanks to a strong female cast.
In Ladies of the Brown: A Women’s History of Denver’s Most Elegant Hotel, hotel historian and archivist Debra B. Faulkner introduces readers to the hotel’s most fascinating and famous female visitors, residents and employees. From Denver’s “Unsinkable” Molly Brown (she stayed at the hotel just a week after the Titanic disaster) and Romania’s Queen Marie to Zsa Zsa Gabor, Mamie Eisenhower and many more, these intriguing characters played leading roles in true tales of romance, scandal, humor and heartbreak.
Integral to these stories and to the institution’s history, the Brown Palace kitchen offered a glimpse into the lives of generations of women who were relegated to the domestic domain. Ladies of the Brown invented iconic recipes like the Imperial Punch and “Zero” Salad (created by Brown Palace chef Ira Dole for President Dwight Eisenhower after his heart attack, “zero” salad was a hit with First Lady Mamie. The “zero” refers to number of calories).
Women from all walks of life who stayed at the palace cultivated a tradition of invaluable community through teatimes, making Brown Palace’s afternoon tea tradition quintessential throughout the ages and to the present. So, in honor of its legacy, we present the recipe for Brown Palace Scones. Enjoy!
Brown Palace Scones
Add currants to re-create a favorite from Afternoon Tea in the atrium lobby.
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
5 tablespoons butter
⅓ cup sugar
3 eggs, plus additional egg for egg wash
¼ cup buttermilk
Mix flour and baking powder. Cut butter into flour mixture. Add the sugar, eggs and buttermilk and blend just until mixture comes together. Do not overmix. Chill in bowl for at least one hour. Roll chilled dough onto floured surface to ½-inch thickness. Using biscuit cutter, cut 2½-inch circles. Brush with egg wash (whisk together one egg plus one tablespoon of water). Place scones on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for fifteen minutes or until golden brown. Yields eighteen scones.
Wealth is making fabulous progress in Colorado, but the Brown Palace is of itself proof that art and culture keep step with riches, and invention is no laggard. Once beneath its restful influences, the hardships and annoyances of travel are soon forgotten and replaced by the pleasant impressions produced by such surroundings, and the delightful buoyance of mind and body always imparted by the exhilarating atmosphere of this favored State.
—The Brown Palace Hotel, in-house publication, circa 1893