The Golden Bee is the ‘English pub’ at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, USA, and it has intriguing origins.
We can’t recall how we first heard of it but the part of the official origin story that grabbed our attention was this:
You’ll feel transported right to jolly old England at the Golden Bee, The Broadmoor’s 19th century British Pub. The pub was actually transferred to The Broadmoor panel by panel, directly from the UK.
So, this isn’t a recreation or a sham – it’s a real English pub interior relocated across the Atlantic.
How did this come to happen? And which pub did the fixtures and fittings come from?
There’s something a little exciting about the thought that a London pub long-demolished or converted might live on across the ocean, still serving something like its original function.
Our usual research avenues didn’t turn up much but fortunately, the Broadmoor, being something of an institution, has an archivist, Jamey Hastings, with whom we were able to get in touch. Jamey very kindly provided copies of historic press and publicity notices which, while still contradictory and confusing at times, do provide useful information from close to the moment.
This from the Colorado Springs Gazette for 16 February 1964 gives a good summary of the story and feels as it might be the truth purely because it feels less neat and romantic than the typical marketing blurb:
The fixtures, the bar and accessories are those of an English pub built in the 1880s and later brought to this country intact and set up in New York. When the Broadmoor decided to build the Bee, it asked W. and J. Sloane and Co. to find it some authentic pub fixtures.
The firm did more than that. It found an entire pub, covered with dust, in a warehouse in New York… The pub itself had been operated at one time in an area near the old London Terrace section of New York, once one of the fashionable residential districts of the city.
Another article, from just after the pub launched in 1961, says more or less the same only it specifies that the pub interior went from England to New York as far back as the 19th century.
So far, so good, until we come to a similarly credible story from Broadmoor Bonanza for spring 1984, which suggests a slightly different chain of events:
Forty years ago, The Golden Lion was a popular 17th century pub located near the Thames River in London. It’s not in London anymore but it’s still popular. Now called The Golden Bee, it’s one of The Broadmoor’s truly remarkable traditions… In the mid-1950s, Thayer Tutt, Honorary Chairman of The Broadmoor, heard about an authentic English pub for sale from a friend, Sir Guy Bracewell Smith, who was owner of the Park Lane Hotel in London. The pub was owned by the Whitbread House and they wanted to sell it to an American business to aid in publicizing their ale in the United States. Through the Broadmoor’s interior design firm, W.J. Sloan, and its representative, Leslie Dorsey, Mr Tutt arranged to purchase the dismantled bar for $20,000.
The suggestion here, then, is that the pub was older by about two hundred years, was still intact in London as late as the post-war period, and was owned by Whitbread. That’s plenty of concrete information to latch on to.
So far, though… Nothing. We have a pretty good run of 1950s editions of The House of Whitbread, the brewery’s in-house magazine, and can’t find any mention of this sale. It’s not mentioned in any of the official histories to which we have access, either. Nor does A Monthly Bulletin seem to cover it in any of the issues we’ve got.
One item we did dig up is in The Taverns in the Town by H.E. Popham, from 1937:
In the Fulham High Street is The Golden Lion, a fifty-year-old house standing on the site of a very ancient tavern of the same name. The original building, which dated back to the reign of Henry VII, is said to have been the residence of Bishop Bonner… On the pulling down of the original Golden Lion, the panelling was purchased by Lord Ellenborough for the fitting up of his residence, Southam House, near Cheltenham.
So there was at least one historic Golden Lion interior divorced from its original location and floating around.
At this stage, we’re left with more questions with answers.
Because all the sources are American, and because we suspect a certain amount of obfuscation, it’s certainly possible the details might have got mangled – that the original pub wasn’t called The Golden Lion, or wasn’t in London, or wasn’t owned by Whitbread. Although that last seems the most likely to be true.
So… Does anyone have any evidence that might unlock this? Not guesswork but references to newspapers, books, magazines or other papers that might pin this down.
Further reading: Gary Gillman has been writing extensively about the idea of the English pub in American culture for some time, as in this post. Do check out his back catalogue.