A river of booze runs through the history of this city. In fact, a whiskey barrel made the future city possible, according to historian Tom Noel, who wrote his Ph.D. thesis on the watering holes of Denver, creating his first book, The City and the Saloon, and earning the title “Dr. Colorado.” After the discovery of gold by the foothills of the Rockies, competing camps sprang up near the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River; Denver City was founded on the St. Charles Town claim. On November 22, 1858, General William Larimer — who’d built the town’s first house out of coffin tops, or so the story goes — and his supporters “persuaded” a St. Charles Town Co. representative with a barrel of whiskey (and the threat of a hanging) to surrender his claim. The St. Charles Town rep agreed, and Denver was born.

Larimer Street was the rowdy heart of the early town, where the first city government was founded in a saloon called Apollo Hall, just up from Cherry Creek at 1425 Larimer. One of the first laws enacted by that new government banned the sale of liquor on the street or from wagons and tents…a prohibition that continues to this day (except in the case of special-event permits, which are common in modern-day Larimer Square, still a destination for those seeking food, drink and general merriment). Much of the business of the new city was conducted in saloons, a practice that also continues (unofficially, at least) to this day.

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