The Buckhorn Exchange, which has liquor license Number One in the State of Colorado, was founded on November 17, 1893 by Henry H. "Shorty Scout" Zietz, easily recognized as one of the most colorful figures of the Old West.
In 1875, at age 10, a wide-eyed Zietz met Col. William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody. Within two years young Henry was a full-fledged member of the hard-riding, straight-shooting band of scouts. Zietz soon opened a restaurant, the Buckhorn Exchange, which chronicled the robust and lusty days of early Colorado. From the time it opened its doors on Osage Street in 1893, it catered to cattlemen, miners, railroad builders, silver barons, Indian chiefs, roustabouts, gamblers, and businessmen.
The Buckhorn Exchange derives its name from the Rio Grande Railroad yards that were directly across Osage Street and the second-story Buckhorn Lodge that housed railroaders for the night. Each Friday, the railroaders scrambled across Osage Street to exchange their paychecks for gold. In return, Zietz handed each man a token good for a free lunch and a beer. After all, whoever heard of a railroad man stopping after only one beer?
President Theodore Roosevelt ate there in 1905 when his Presidential Express train pulled into the Rio Grande rail yards. Roosevelt strutted in presidential style, asked old Shorty Scout to be his guide and hunting partner, and after dinner and drinks, the pair took off by train to hunt big game on Colorado's western slope.
The walls of the Buckhorn detail its illustrious history. Its walls hold a rare 575-piece collection of taxidermy, including deer and moose, giant buffalo, mountain goat and big horn sheep; dozens of indigenous fowl; even a two-headed calf and a legendary jackalope.
The 125-piece gun collection includes Colt .45s, Winchesters, Derringers, a Sharp's sporting rifle dating to 1889, and a rare palm pistol dating to 1891 from the Minneapolis Firearm Co.
The Buckhorn is a Denver treasure, was just there for lunch this week. The charm and history of the old place is wonderful. Our first visit was about forty years ago, this is when Mr. Zietz was still active in the restaurant. I remember the menu which was very easy to do, Large Steak, Small Steak and Pork Chops. Usually while dinning the electricity would go out and I would go to the kitchen and reset the fuses. Mr. Zietz would shuffle over and say thanks and that was enough...
As for the historical items, they are excellent can’t be replaced. So, when visiting Denver (or if one lives here) take in some great history and visit this old treasure.