The Miller Building – Denver, Colorado - Atlas Obscura

The Miller Building

This was once the home of Gahan's Saloon, Denver's most storied speakeasy. 


There’s no way to know how many reporters were tipped and favors were traded in the old Miller Building over the years.

First envisioned in 1858, Larimer Square was Denver’s first commercial district. Gahan’s Saloon was one of its most beloved watering holes, popular with the politicians, policemen, and reporters who spent their days across the way at City Hall. (These days, City Hall has been relocated to Bannock Street.)

Beer and politics mixed well and often in 19th and 20th century Denver. In fact, the city’s first government was started in a saloon down the street: Apollo Hall. Gahan’s was one of several saloons owned and operated by Irish city councilmen, in this case the well-dressed William Gahan. He ran a lively shop in this three-story red brick building, where everyone knew everyone. The camaraderie that developed among the power players assembled at Gahan’s was advantageous: Although the Irish were a minority in Denver at the turn of the century, they were regularly able to elect their countrymen to political office via well-coordinated (and well-whetted) associations.

When Gahan, Sr. passed away in 1913, his son John took up operation of the saloon. When Prohibition went into effect in Colorado on New Year’s Day, 1916, Gahan’s Saloon became “Gahan’s Soft Drink Parlor” (likely story). The space became home to the most legendary speakeasy in Denver, which operated out of the basement and supposedly boasted a backbreaking backroom poker game. The civil servants and whistleblowers tasked with ratting out such illegal establishments didn’t—because they were there.

Other joints weren’t so connected or so lucky. It’s estimated that more than 400 Denver bars and saloons closed in the years following Prohibition and several of the power players in the brewery industry soon folded operations as well.

As Denver grew, the area around Larimer Square fell into disuse for several decades. The Miller Building was renovated in the 1960s and, since then, this area has once again become a social center.

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