DENVER - It’s a place that hasn’t really changed since it was founded on Nov. 17, 1893 by Shorty Zietz, a cowboy, big-game hunter and member of Buffalo Bill’s band of scouts.
Now, the Buffalo Exchange continues to be a “taste of Colorado’s history” – and not just because of the rattlesnake and Rocky Mountain oysters on the menu.
“I used to say, if you are here, you are looking for us or you are lost,” owner Bill Dutton said.
Now, the National Historic Landmark is surrounded by nods to the future – including new apartment buildings that are part of Denver’s “transit-oriented development.”
Nevertheless, the Buckhorn Exchange takes you back to days of gunslingers, gold miners and the animals of the Wild West.
“Over 500 taxidermy, 520 antique firearms and Indian memorabilia,” Dutton said.
There’s also a golden eagle from the 1890s (“you catch one today and you are looking at 10 years in Leavenworth,” Dutton said) and a wedding dress that supposedly belonged to Sitting Bull’s niece.
It’s an impressive collection, but don’t expect it to get bigger.
“We don’t add to the collection,” Dutton said, “but we have an obligation to protect what we have as a history of Denver and promoting Denver.”
One part of that unique and bizarre history? A petrified elk penis.
“They used to use it behind the bar, so that if someone was using foul language, they would whack their hand with it,” Dutton said.
The Buckhorn Exchange was a brewery back when it was a favorite place for Teddy Roosevelt.
“When he was running for president, he parked his train out front and suspended his campaign while they hunted,” Dutton said.
Behind the bar, you can find Colorado’s first liquor license. The dining tables are 160-year-old poker tables, and the walls around them display six generations of history and celebrity guests.
Five presidents have dined at the Buckhorn Exchange, as well as celebrities like Garth Brooks, Bob Hope and even Princess Anne.
Buffalo Bill would also come to the Buckhorn Exchange. He lived with his sister and his health was bad. He would promise he’d only have one drink.
The owner would make a bourbon and apple cider in a quart jar, so that way, Buffalo Bill really could say he only had one drink.
“We are truly a part of Denver’s history,” Dutton said.
You can find the Buffalo Exchange at 10th Avenue and Osage Street.
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