History - 107 Years of HistoryWelcome to the O.L.I, the Old Louisville Inn. The beautiful antique back bar was built in the 1880s by the Brunswick Company Factory in Dubuque, Iowa. It is a cherry wood, birch, and mahogany “Del Monte” model, was cut-to-fit and constructed with no nails. Older than the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower, he Brunswick bar spent about ten years in Leadville,CO. At the turn of the century this building was built and owned by E.J. Difrancia, who was Louisville’s agent for Tivoli Beer in Denver. Tivoli worked with him to bring the back bar to Louisville. It remains Colorado’s oldest antique bar and is a priceless treasure in our community. Due to dangerous gases in the coal mines, miners could not smoke, so most used chewing tobacco. This is the reason for the copper spit trough (once equipped with running water) that still exists along the floor of the front bar.
During its early days, the saloon—also known as the Colorado Cafe and the Primrose—had a operating ice house connected to the building. The original hand-crank elevator was and still is used to bring ice and beer barrels to the basement. O.L.I. is the last remaining saloon of the original 13 that lined a three-block strip of Front Street. At one time, most of Louisville’s 22 saloons were connected by tunnels, and their remains still exist on our basement walls, along with the original coal burning furnace. Miners assisted in digging tunnels to connect the saloons during the summer months. Because the grade of coal mined in Louisville was weak and brittle, mining only took place during the winter. When Prohibition hit in the 1920s, the windows were covered up and two skylights were installed to bring in light. The skylight and bevel glass you see were installed during the establishment’s most recent renovations.
Due to constant labor strikes by the town’s miners and the mining company’s intimidation tactics, Louisville was frequently placed under martial law by U.S. troops and state militia. The mining company hired mercenaries to shoot up the downtown area with machine guns from the compound grounds across the road. The town’s residents frequently spent sleepless nights in the basements. These compounds also had their own saloons, drug stores, and casinos. The miners would try and sway strike votes by enlisting their companion/co-worker mules from the mines and count their votes. Due to the Ludlow Massacre and the brutal violence in Louisville in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson issued a directive stating that no more immigrants could be brought in by the mining companies to break the strikes.
In its livelier days, the saloon was the heart of the “red-light district” and a brothel operated in the back of the building. The train workers were always fed by the saloon, making it easy to draw business from the neighboring train station. O.L.I. is also rumored to be home to a mischievous ghost named Samantha, a harlot who was stabbed to death by one of her customers. For many years, Louisville was the only “wet town” in Boulder County. It was notorious for its drinking, gambling, and illegal connections. There is still a .22 caliber bullet hole in the lower front bar, left by just one of the many scuffles that occurred in O.L.I. Around the mid-1940s, the owner asked a local American Indian man named Cheyenne to paint the three large murals on the walls. As Cheyenne was known throughout the town for his preference for liquor, the work was done in exchange for a bar tab at the saloon. The paintings of Colorado’s beautiful changing seasons took only a few days and were completed with a single brush. Until their 1994 unveiling, the murals had spent the better part of 35 years under old wallpaper.
The first major renovations in over 40 years were completed by Garrett McCarthy, family, and friends in 1994. The work required thousands of hours of labor, as does the continued stewardship of the premises. Boulder Preservation and the Historic Society both recently honored the McCarthy’s for their “labor of love.” In his “spare time,” Garrett is a World Championship Gold Medalist in triathlon and has numerous World Cup and international victories to his resume. He also raced for Ireland for 11 years and was the Emerald Isle’s best athlete during that time. This project was undertaken to try and link the new Louisville with its colorful past. It is not known how many patrons have passed trough these doors, but it is our hope that you will be enriched by its history and continue to enjoy our Irish hospitality for many years to come.