In Denver, The Nation’s Oldest Press Club Struggles In Changing Times

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Denver Press Club, Fourth Estate Room
The dining room of the Denver Press Club. The clubhouse at 1330 Glenarm Place was built in 1925. Photos of presidents who've visited the club, or Denver, hang in the dining room. Some were even taken in a small photo studio which is now the club's coat closet.

The press club in Denver is the oldest in the country, with reporters first gathering in 1867 and incorporating a decade later. That means the club is about as old as Colorado. Presidents, celebrities and authors have paid visits. But today the club may be facing its greatest challenge: staying relevant in the digital age. Club historian Alan Kania spoke to Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner.

On the early years of the Denver Press Club:

"We moved from bouncing around from hotel to hotel, getting thrown out of the better quality ones [in the mid 1800s]...truly. We were a rowdy crowd. In 1925, we built our own club house which is located at 1330 Glenarm Place [in downtown Denver] and that became the Denver Press Club, and it continued that way to the present day."

On presidential members: Denver Press Club, Woodrow Wilson

"We had a lot of presidents come through, both for informal purposes as well as campaigning and as presidents. And they became honorary members of the press club, including [Warren G.] Harding, Teddy Roosevelt, [William Howard] Taft and some of the others that have come through the club. There's a closet in the press club that served as the photo studio and presidents that came through the club had to pose in the closet!"

On a standing rule at the press club:

"The Denver Press Club was a great place where politicians, business leaders and the general press could come together have lunch, have a very informal discussion. And there was rule at the press club at that time that anything heard could not be used by a competing newspaper. So even though you were right next to a competing paper or competing legislator, you could discuss anything you wanted and you knew it stayed at the press club."

Denver Press Club Logo
The unofficial logo of the Denver Press Club.

Is the club still relevant journalistically, and should it stay a members only institution:

"Yes. The concept of the Denver Press Club was primarily as a place where people who had a healthy respect for civil, political and social discourse and a respect for the [First Amendment] could get together and discuss political issues and issues that were of concern to the community. We've always welcomed anybody, even outside the press corp...We do welcome the general public to attend our programs. We have guest lecturers, book authors coming on tours. [But] we do need to work on getting more people into the club. "

On a favorite piece of Denver Press Club lore:

There are lots of legends that have definite basis of fact as we moved from press club to press club locations. There was a poker game going on, I believe it was at the St. James Hotel. And the moving van pulled up ready to load all the furniture onto the truck to the next location. But the poker players didn't want to stop their game 'how dare they!' So they loaded the table, the chairs, and the poker players onto the moving van and the game continued to the next location -- It was reported in the newspaper as fact, so we'll go with that."

Editor's Note: In the interview, Kania mistakenly said Second Amendment while he meant to say First Amendment. We've changed the transcript to note this .