Murder At The Brown Palace: A True Story Of Seduction & Betrayal, by Dick Kreck

“This is just to let you know that someone knows a great deal. Therefore, under no circumstances, telephone me or try to communicate with me in any way. Everything is finally and absolutely off…”

With those words, Isabel Springer set into motion a drama that would end tragically for all involved – a high society murder, the downfall of a society girl and the tragic death of an innocent bystander.

(Want to know the whole story? Read it here!)

Isabel, recently divorced from her first husband, marries John W. Springer (who owned land that is now known as Highlands Ranch near Denver-he could have been a tremendously rich man, you know, if he could have lived to be 150. :)) who is 20 years her senior.

Little does Springer know that his sprightly wife was not only carrying on an affair with a man, named ouis Sylvester “Tony” von Phul from her hometown of St. Louis, but he was also unaware that she was getting cozy with a family friend named Harold Francis “Frank” Henwood.

All of this would come to a head on May 24, 1911, when von Phul-in town to try and convince Isabel to continue to see him and Henwood-who was SO concerned with saving the marriage of his friends the Springers that he was trying to retrieve some racy letters Isabel wrote to von Phul from being made public, would meet in a tavern in the stately Brown Hotel.

Von Phul would be fatally wounded by Henwood along with an innocent bystander, setting the stage for a juicy trial that would result in the immediate divorce of Isabel and John Springer. Unfortunately, it would also mark the pivotal point in Isabel’s life-she would thereafter move to New York City and slide from society girl to actress to prostitute. A mere six years later, Isabel would die penniless at the age of 37.

Henwood, meanwhile, eventually earns a new trial on the charge of killing the innocent bystander and is convicted a second time. After a surprising move of executive clemency, Henwood was paroled but shortly thereafter was returned to prison for a parole violation. He dies in 1929.

This book is intriguing. On one hand, it’s a well-woven tale of jealousy and murder, it’s also a tad bland in the telling.

Author Dick Kreck is a good storyteller – a former journalist with the San Francisco Examiner, he has worked in various capacities at the Denver Post for 31 years and has been a city columnist for 15. So he knows his subject matter.

But the telling comes off slightly dry – more of a “news” piece than a work of non-fiction worthy of a full length book. I yearned for more “paint” – more color to the book – more about the city in 1911, more about John Springer…just MORE.

It is not, however, boring. For this reason, I recommend the book.

Published in: on August 4, 2006 at 4:44 am  Comments (9)  

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9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. 7

    … Incoldblog blog went on 7 news in denver …

  2. Tony Von Puhl was my Great (great?) Uncle. For years my father has told the story of how he was shot off a bar stool at The Brown Palace Hotel and even took us into the bar when we were in Denver years ago to show us “the scene of the crime”. At the time of his death legend has it that he was a famous Balloonist. Needless to say, he was the “black sheep” of our family, though my grandmother, who was 9 when he was killed always said he was her favorite uncle.

  3. Wow! That’s pretty cool. Of course, it’s always the black sheep who have the best stories. 🙂

  4. Tony Von Phul was my great uncle also, Interesting to see where he could have been if this had not happened, The NY Times has many articles about his balloon races and he was arguably set to win the international contest in KC that fall. If you can, send my address on to Kathryn Reese, as I would like to connect in

  5. I am reading the book right now.

    I felt sorry for the innocent bystanding killed. But the is not talked about much in the book.

    I just felt really bad about Mr. Phul. He just seemed so full of life. And it was a shame he never got to live long.

    Isabel is a sad story, but her death was because of her own actions. It is sad she wasted her life like that, but her death was her own doing.

  6. Hello all….Tony is an ancestor to me as well. I have alot of information on the von Phuls. If you are interested pls contact me @

  7. Isabel Springer died in the wide way

  8. U guyz u shud also talk on her,she was all great

  9. Bt i think she was a player

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