Buckhorn Exchange

Posted by blogger in Denver Ghost Tours
Buckhorn Exchange - Photo

Most people have heard of going to a haunted cemetery, forest, or other building. However, have you heard of going to a haunted restaurant? In Denver, you can find the Buckhorn Exchange. You can find delicious food, a memorable restaurant, and maybe some ghosts. Colorado is home to the best tasty renowned eateries; however, these are different. They are haunted eateries!


The Buckhorn Exchange was established 125 years ago in 1893. The opening day was on November 17th. This restaurant is considered a historic landmark. It is also an American frontier museum found at Lincoln Park.  It is the oldest restaurant to continuously run in Denver. It was listed in the register of Historic Places in 1983 and it was known as the Zeitz Buckhorn Exchange.


Shorty Scout or Henry H. Zietz was one of the most colorful figures in the West. He was the one who established the restaurant in 1893. He founded the restaurant as a saloon. The saloon was known as the Rio Grande Exchange. It was in 1875 that Henry had met Buffalo Bill or William F. Cody. He was only ten at the time. Within about two years Henry became a member of the scouts. In the many years that Zietz had been riding with Buffalo Bill, the Chief had given him the name Shorty Scout. He was called this because he was a small guy. He has a small figure and diminutive stature. He was a long-term friend of the Indians. Shorty Scout was well-known for being lifelong friends with them. He got along with many different groups of Native Americans and when he died in 1949, the last of the scouts formed by Buffalo Bill was gone.

The saloon was catering to many different people. It would cater to gamblers, railroaders, Indian Chiefs, miners, and cattlemen. From the time the doors opened on Osage Street way back in 1893, it would cater to many different types of people. Many famous and well-known individuals would stop here to eat. They would dine here because it was one of the best places in the West. Many of the western meals still appear on the menu today. A hearty drink, square meal, and history have always gone hand in hand at the Buckhorn.

The name for the Buckhorn derived from the railroads nearby. These railroads were called the Rio Grande Railroad yards. These yards had been directly across the street. There was also a Buckhorn Lodge that would house those on the railroads overnight. Many people who were on the railroads would quickly exchange their paychecks for gold. It was at this time that Zietz would hand the men a token. This token was good for a beer and lunch. He did this because he knew that railroad men could not stop after one lousy drink.

In 1905, Theodore Roosevelt had stopped in the restaurant to dine. He arrived when his Presidential Express train had gotten to the Rio Grande railyard. At this time, Zietz and the president decided to go big-game hunting. They went hunting on the western slope of Colorado. The restaurant has roughly five hundred mounted animals. These animals include bighorn sheep, giant buffalo, mountain goats, deer, moose, and more. They even have a two-headed calf and a jackalope!  They have trophy heads mounted as well. Each animal has a description. The restaurant even features an animal shot by Theodore Roosevelt. The animal is a Cape Buffalo.

By the year 2018, five presidents have been in the restaurant and dined there. These presidents include Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Franklin Roosevelt, and Jimmy Carter. There are hundreds of legends from Hollywood that have also dined here. Some of them include Bob Hope, Will Rogers, and Scott Carpenter.

The restaurant was ranked as the oldest restaurant in Colorado that still operates. This is also one of the oldest in the United States as well! The restaurant was the first ever to receive a liquor license in Denver and in Colorado! The restaurant is currently a steakhouse and it is well-known for the oysters they serve Rocky Mountain style.

Today, you can find the photo of the train, as well as a flag from the engine, along with hundreds of other pieces of memorabilia. This restaurant is just as much of a museum as it is a restaurant and bar. You can also find a 125-piece gun collection at the exchange today. It includes Winchesters, sporting rifles, palm pistols, and more. There are many rare pieces in this restaurant.

There are many historic moments surrounding the bar including one in 1938. This historic moment would happen when the nephew of Sitting Bull, Chief Red Cloud, along with thirty Blackfoot and Sioux Indians would ride down Osage Street. All the men were in full battle gear. They then would turn over to Zietz to take the military saber that was taken from General George Custer. This was taken at the Battle of Little Big Horn. The sword that Zietz received is still being passed down by his family.

The restaurant was featured in two magazines in a single year. It was featured in Coronet magazine and Life Magazine in the year 1948. It was also featured in the Holiday magazine a year later. Since the year 1978, the restaurant has appeared in hundreds of different magazines and newspapers all over the country, and the world!

In 1916 Colorado implemented a Prohibition area. This was done three years before the rest of the nation. Because of the prohibition, the restaurant was no longer a saloon. It was at this time that the restaurant reopened under the name Zietz Buckhorn Restaurant and Bar. The restaurant was the first place in Colorado to receive a liquor license. It had the Number one on it. You can still see this hanging at the restaurant today.


The Buckhorn had a white oak bar, as well as a back-bar that was made in Germany in the year 1857. It was brought here by the family of Zietz. They relocated this to the second floor. They had also installed a garden on the roof that would be heated all year.  The roof is now used for people to eat. It hosts many parties, rehearsal dinners, and reunions.


As stated, the restaurant catered to many different groups of people. It would cater to those who were on the railroad, miners, and other men. It is a well-known place and has been stopped at by many people. With that being said, a lot of people have come and gone around the place. It is said that there are ghosts haunting the exchange. It is said that anyone who has died near the restaurant has decided to make it their lifelong home after they die. Many miners, cowboys, and traders are said to haunt the restaurant to this day. People who are dining at the restaurant hear footsteps when no one is walking and voices of people that are not there. Some people have even seen the tables move on their own without anyone being near them.

Dining at the Buckhorn Exchange is not for the faint of heart. You will get a great meal but you might have some unexpected guests. If you can handle some voices and paranormal activity, then this is one of the best places you can stop. However, just be mindful that these things do happen. It is also important to remember that when you enter the exchange, you may not notice anything at all. With that being said, it is up to you to see for yourself if the Buckhorn exchange holds the spirits of past lives. You determine this for yourself so that you can put your mind to rest. However, if you do happen to hear a cowboy or miner, say hello for us!