Lincoln/Broadway Self-Guided Walking Tour

Stop 5:  Virginia/S. Lincoln Street.

Topic: San Souci and the rise of Saloons 

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Stop 5 - Story.m4a

Around 1881, Saloon owners quickly built saloons here in South Denver where the competition was non-existent and word of the National Mining Exhibition Hall was being built at Exposition and South Lincoln Street. Center Street was marked as the center of the exhibition hall and the reason the block is so short today. The Town of South Denver was successful at keeping the saloons at bay so far, but they soon found themselves powerless to stop them.⁵

In 1882, built on the north side of Virginia at the corner of Lincoln at Virginia Ave. San Souci was Intended as a traditional beer garden. It was the brainchild of Walter von Richtofen, Denver’s castle-loving Prussian Baron. To boost poor attendance, the nobleman worked with Loveland (a railroad promoter for the Circle Railroad) and decided to introduce a night for the “Sporting element,” which was a euphemism for the underworld that included gamblers, pimps, and prostitutes. Denver had its fair share of this sort, and plenty more respectable but curious citizens were also in attendance. While mild to start, the night would become legendary for its booze-fueled sex and brawling. The "Big night at Souci" from all reports, formed one of the striking bits of conversation around Denver for a long time after, but it was carried on quietly between the men. The Baron was suitably embarrassed by their new reputation as a proprietor of sin, and such invitations to work with Loveland were not extended again.⁵

The fed up residents of the town of "South Denver" created a club called the “South Broadway Union Club” and decided to fight liquor licenses as they came up for renewal. Most of the battles centered on keeping saloons from crawling up South Broadway in the early 1880’s along with homes and shops.  If a liquor license popped up, a hoard of protestors would visit the county commissioner and the liquor license was stopped. William Byers said “This policy resulted in giving our community a better class of citizens than ordinary”.  San Souci was their first target. They were unsuccessful and San Souci flourished until 1887. Afterwards, instead of the seductive roadhouse signs, a large sign with the words “ Episcopal mission” was posted instead. This is where the nun Sister Eliza’s first mission began. She conducted Sunday services, meetings, children's sewing and industry classes in the San Souchi building. The building unfortunately burnt down in 1893 and became known as Sans Souci Park. The lovely grounds were used for picnics and outdoor parties for many years afterwards by locals. Rumor has it, a neighbor who lived in one of the duplexes where San Souci used to be even unearthed a small tunnel in his basement that contained the decomposed remains of what looked like a corset. Could it have been evidence of San Souci’s past?⁵ 

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New Recording 21.m4a

“National Mining and Industrial Exposition Building” - Located at S Lincoln between Exposition and Center Street. Denver Public Library Special Collections  Call Number: C-94 

San Souci Beer Garden - Located at Virginia/S. Lincoln Street - Denver Public Library Special Collections  Call Number: X-27716 “San Souci” 

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