Abe Lee discovered gold at California Gulch in the 1860's. Hundreds of gold seekers rushed in and their camp (a short distance east of Harrison Avenue) became known as Oro City. As the placer gold that lay on top of the ground for the taking was depleted, Oro City was deserted and the scene was desolate.
Discovery of silver in 1877 signaled another rush to upper California Gulch. Oro City No. 2 quickly grew. The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad arrived in August, 1880. President Ulysses S. Grant and his party were among the first passengers. Leadville's population had stabilized at 25,000. (hardy souls lured by discovery of the rich silver-bearing carbonate of lead ores in the California Gulch)
In the mid 1880's three brothers, William F., George F. and John W. Callaway, Denver queens ware merchants, came to Leadville. The brothers established a branch of their business on lower Harrison Avenue. They built the two-story Callaway Block on the northeast corner of Sixth and Harrison (which later burned). In 1886 they erected the Delaware Hotel as a monument to their home state. John Callaway was proprietor. The Delaware Block was completed by October, 1886 at an estimated cost of $60,000. The sidewalk level was designed for stores both in front and on the Seventh Street side. The second and third walk-up floors had fifty handsomely furnished rooms suitable for offices and bedrooms. The building was fitted with steam heat, hot and cold water, gas lights, 6 bathrooms and a few closets.
Delaware architect, George King, came to Leadville in time to take an active part in the building boom that was sweeping the city. King obviously favored the French Mansard design, which until the late 1880's was popular in mining towns. King was also the architect for the plush Tabor Grand Hotel directly across the street.
Eventually William and George returned to Denver and John remained to operate the Delaware Hotel. Historians note "the brothers retired from business in 1890 having made fortunes in legitimate business and investments.
Former Leadvillites, Dorthea and Arthur Hougland of Glenwood Springs recalled Callaway as a "delightful man who wore Benjamin Franklin glasses, a derby hat, and a vest with his suit. He had a phonograph and played classical music. Songs by Enrico Caruso were among his favorites." Mrs. Hougland spent much time as a young girl at the hotel. Her grandmother, Josephine Feller worked for Callaway.
Baby Doe Tabor, who became a tragic figure after Horace Tabor's death, lived alone at the Matchless Mine and often visited the hotel to warm herself. She would climb the front entrance stairs, walk to the office and seat herself at the desk where she would write letters. Baby Doe's feet were customarily wrapped in gunny sacks for warmth as she walked to town from her wooden shack at the Matchless Mine.
During it's heyday many famous people walked the streets of this historic mining town. These include; Doc Holiday, Houdini, John Phillips Souza, Butch Cassidy and "The Unsinkable Molly Brown", to name but a few.
The Delaware Hotel, known as the "Crown Jewel" of Leadville, has remained an active part in Leadville history and continues to represent the graciousness of the Victorian era.
The Delaware Hotel is a member of the .