Bill Lorenz remembered

February 2, 1936 – July 29, 2018

Bill Lorenz passed away Sunday afternoon, July 29, 2018 and will be missed by everyone who knew him. Family members are wife Kay, children Heidi (Ed) Pasic, Lisa Artz, Tony (Mary) Lorenz, Stephanie (Al) Elio, and Jeff (Suzi) Lorenz. Also are sixteen grandchildren and eight great grandchildren. A memorial service is tentatively planned for August 16th, but is not yet confirmed. Please check the Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary website at for the latest details when available.

  Publisher’s Note: We thought our readers might like to see comments from friends and family over the past few years. We’ll miss Bill! Aaron Storms

Stephen Buck – Great memories! I lived near them up on Swede Hill and saw them pretty much every day and played and rode bikes with Heidi, Lisa, Stephanie, Tony, and Jeffrey. I battled it out with Heidi in the Clark School spelling bee and later dated her in high school and took her to the prom. I used to play “mental tic-tac-toe” with Lisa on the long bus rides and saw her recently when she stayed in Boulder for a while. Went on an epic bike ride with Stephanie to the Gold Dust Village and gave Tony my giant comic book collection. I walked up and down their giant stairs every day! Oops! I forgot Schnapps the dog!

Stephanie Lorenz Elio – Steve, I remember that bike ride and how you let me ride yours after I wrecked mine. You carried/ pushed my bike all the way back home. Thank You!

Peter Droege – Two of the finest folks in the world. My wife and I had dinner at the Black Forest in Nederland last year and Bill joined us for what was one of the most enjoyable evenings I have ever had.

Heidi Boswell-Pasic – Good times make excellent memories. Our neighborhood was family regardless of last names. All of the neighborhood kids used to come over and play for hours. I remember my first experience playing football in the large lower back yard with Mark Spellman, Kevin Wright, the Judy and Jeannie. We would take turns walking up the sloping rock wall by the 100 step staircase and jump off. I never had the guts to jump off on the high end, but Mark and Kevin did.

Peggy Miller – Still very important members of the Gilpin community and great supporters of a Gilpin Kids!

Diane Blake Rittenhouse – Have known them forever and love them and their tenacity. They quietly go about being wonderful members of our community.

Kay Bower – I miss them both… and the wiener schnitzel!

Carmen Lakner – My father Dale La Dow use to work for Bill when he first opened the Black Forest. I use to sit and peel potatoes such fun.

Gary Reno – I found an old picture of the Black Forest Inn staff with Bill Lorenz and I in 1964. I was the 14 year old bar boy and worked beside Jim Collins. Bill Lorenz’s dad Wilhelm (aka Willy) Lorenz worked in the kitchen and Anna Lorenz worked in the kitchen and beer garden. They used to make our bratwurst and sausage meats from scratch. Michael, Kelly, and Kris are the fourth generation to have worked at the restaurant.

James V. Collins – I worked at the BFI with Bill, Anna, chef, and Yokel and all the great crews for 8 – 9 years during the summers or weekends. White shirts and black pants, black shoes and black socks. Martin Novak, waiter, and Milano from coast to coast…Tommy the accordion player. Great memories.

Katie Scalese – My favorite memory of Grandpa Bill… the way he grabs my face and gives me a big smooch like I’m still a little girl. Sitting in the bar at the old grey house upstairs while he made me Shirley Temple drinks. When I was a kid and I lost all my front teeth, he cut up my fried shrimp into tiny pieces so I could chew them. Then for dessert he always knew my favorite – fresh strawberries with whip cream. Driving down the hill to Nederland in his old… I don’t even know what the car was, but it had the wood paneling on the side.

Troy Scott Dettman – Bill used to feed Tony and I like we were on the Olympic team.

Jessica Cole Rix – Grandpa always tries to talk us into buying an orchard so that we would have enough grapes to make wine.

Carmen Lakner – My Dad use cook for Bill and I remember having to peel potatoes and fill up sacks with sand and put candles in them outside. Plus my favorite place to eat as a kid and as an adult. Thanks for the memories.

Jerry Powers – Many memories of Bill dating back to the time my then wife worked for him at the Black Forest.

Sharon Johnson – I still remember the ride with Bill at a State School Board conference Held in Colorado Springs many years ago! That was one huge thrill! Was not sure I was going to get there in one piece. Bill is a better friend than driver! (Just sayin’)

Kris Artz – When I was 12 he took me out to work cattle with him. I got charged by the bull and had to jump out of the corral and did a front flip over the fence into the snow. He looked at me and started dying laughing saying, “You’re gonna’ learn today.” This man has taught me how to run my own business, serve tables in any restaurant, work on any ranch, and to just be an all-around stand up man.

Lisa Kervitsky – I have so many stories, but the best ones I have was when working for him at Black Forest Inn as my first job. He and your grandma taught me many things about the service industry and really gave me a head start in life about work ethic!

Eve Blumenstock – Bill and Kay were angels sent from Heaven when my mom and dad lived in Denver. Without them, I don’t know that they would have survived through life in general. Many years later, Bill agreed to walk me down the aisle as my Godfather. God has used him to touch my life. My parents were recipients of such generosity, and then grew a friendship that ended up with Bill and Kay baptizing me as an infant. How fortunate I am to have such great people to call my Godparents!

Greg Swartz – I could tell stories about Bill until the cows come home, but his most impressive attribute to me has always been his unflagging generosity. Bill has always taken care of the down-and-out in our community. Any time a beloved member of our community died, Bill threw a reception with food and drinks for the grieving family and friends at the restaurant and totally at his own expense. I learned a lot from Bill and am extremely proud to call him my friend! Bill never knew that I did this, but it was one of the funniest things I ever saw at the Black Forest! I put a pack of gum that makes your mouth turn blue on the bar where Bill always kept his food to snack on during the day. Of course, he soon was chewing some and unknowingly greeting guests with a blue mouth and lips! We were all laughing so hard that we were practically rolling on the floor! Bill was a huge practical joker too though.

Faith Lorenz Lansdon – Uncle Bill never understood the phrase “I’m not hungry.” When you say this, you end up with a HUGE plate of schnitzel and a giant slice apple strudel in front of you.

Mari McCormack – Willy and my dad were roommates in the 1950’s. They worked together at the Brown Palace. I am sure there are plenty of stories between those two that we will never know… Growing up in Denver it was such a treat to come up to Black Hawk and visit the entire Lorenz clan during the summer.

Eryk Lorenz – My favorite memories are going over to the restaurant or to my grandparent’s house and hearing all of the stories from Grandpa Bill. I also have lots of memories from helping him out with the cattle.

Brandi Cole – Bill’s bright smile, big personality, and generous heart is what you makes him “Bill.” I have many memories of him at my wedding, the many family gatherings he always attend, and games to watch his grandkids.

Kelly Artz – It’s hard to pick just one memory of Grandpa Bill. He’s the only living grandfather I ever had. He played a pretty big role in my upbringing and the adult I am today. I remember lots of little things; like the time he made me eat oxtail soup and milk after school, which is a totally disgusting combination, but waste not – want not! I remember him eating cow’s tongue, his love for his completely feral white barn cat – and would love to feed it and our poodle Lacy just about anything. I remember going to visit the chicken lady and taking all the scraps from the restaurant to the chickens. How he gives out apples on Halloween to kids, but always has chocolate bars. I remember his diabetic candies, and the time he had to give me the Heimlich maneuver at Aunt Heidi Boswell-Pasic‘s graduation after Grandma Dyer snuck me a caramel because I wouldn’t stop squirming. I remember his stories of his childhood during the war and the great effort it took one year to get a Christmas tree with what little money they had. I remember they put their food on the tree because it was all they had to decorate. I remember playing darts with the elk hanging on the wall and toothpicks and how mad he got. I remember his offices and the old rotary telephones and his weird loopy handwriting that I couldn’t read until high school. I remember herding the cows on foot, and chasing a bull off the highway on a summer afternoons. I am grateful for the big things too: my work ethic, and knowing how hard you actually have to work to be successful – in an age where I’m a part of a generation that “doesn’t know how to work” and has little hope for a successful financial future. I know if you beat the pavement hard enough and long enough like he did you can do just about anything and turn a little money into a lot of money – and it’s okay to take business risks because you can always start over. It doesn’t matter if you have a 7th grade education or a master’s degree – you have to work smart and harder than everyone else. I now never make an empty handed trip anywhere. I can carry five plates at a time (I’m sure that will come in handy when I have kids). I never knew what it was like to be hungry. He gave me my first horse Ben, who bucked me off about three times a day until I learned how to stay on… and told me if I still liked it after falling off a lot, I would probably always like it. I remember the stories of the German riding school, and the New York fish market. I can pick up languages quickly and have an appreciation for the fact that all Americans come from immigrants. You always treat employees right even if it means you suffer. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and everyone needs a day off unless you’re the owner of a business, and then you need one more day to work. I remember the swimming lessons at the Black Hawk house and the smell of the overstocked food cellars. I forever know how to marry ketchups. I know how to train cows with corn. I know what a real marriage is supposed to look like even though I’m a child of multiple divorces. I think he’s the only person I know that wears suspenders every day and graduated from a bow tie to a cowboy tie at the start of the new millennium. I remember my grandfather when business was going good and when business was going bad – and he was always the same person. I don’t think he knew how many lives he has affected and how much he taught all his kids and grandkids.

Lexi Elio – My favorite memory of Grandpa Bill is him coming to my second grade class to help with a dissection. Much to both of our dismay, a cow’s eyeball was placed before us with a child-proof scalpel. Neither of us wanted to follow through with the dissection, so we simply didn’t – we both left the room.

Anthony Cole – Lots of great memories of grandpa, but one great thing I will never forget is his kindness and willingness to help anyone out. His gentle heart that would accept you no matter what you did. He taught me that family is more important than anything else in life. Family comes first no matter what is going on in your life.

Kim Pasic – He is always very kind and I always enjoy hearing his perspective on things. I learn a lot!

Gregory Hoyl – So many wonderful memories of Bill. The first may sound odd, but I love marinated herring and always received a full plate. Then there was bringing a date to the restaurant and being welcomed as “Mr. Hoyl” while I was still but a teenager. Then there was coffee served in a glass instead of a cup.

Georgina Barba – Bill Kate and the entire Lawrence family have been very good friends of my family for a very long time and I know that with the restaurant they have given so much to Gilpin County, Central City, Black Hawk, and Nederland. We will miss visiting and enjoying the great service, food, and company they provided at the Black Forest Inn.

Bill Lorenz and the Black Forest Inn

July 30, 2015 – by Maggie Magoffin

In 1936, while Adolf Hitler terrorized Europe, Wilhelm “Bill” Lorenz was born in Mainz, Germany. Bill’s father owned three taverns, and by the time Bill was seven-years-old he stood on boxes to tap beer for his dad’s customers. At that time, young Bill had no idea one day he would be serving beer in his own restaurant in the Unites States.

After World War II, while French forces still occupied Germany, Bill served a three-year apprenticeship at the Hotel La Central in Mainz. After graduating his apprenticeship, he worked in Switzerland and southern France, later returning to Germany to work on the U.S. military base in Wiesbaden. Eventually, one of the officers on the base sponsored Bill to come to the United States, and during his first year in America, he lived with that officer and his family in Aurora, Colorado.

Bill went to work for fellow expatriate from Germany, Claude Boettcher, at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver. Claude’s father, Charles Boettcher, made his fortune operating hardware stores and various other businesses, and striking it big in Leadville during the silver boom.

How Boettcher came to own the palatial hotel is a humorous story in itself. It seems that one day in 1922, Charles showed up at the Brown Palace in jeans, and the desk clerk refused him a room because of the way he was dressed. At that time, Charles was the richest man in the west, so he bought the hotel and remained owner until his death, at which time Claude took over control of the Brown Palace Hotel.

In the 1950s, Claude hired Bill to serve lunch in the Palace Arms Restaurant. Claude was in his final years and was gravely ill. Still today, Bill holds great respect for Claude Boettcher who was a generous and wonderful man, and a patron of the arts. Bill said, “He would give the shirt off his back for the Central City Opera Association.”

Whenever the Opera had a performance, Claude sent the best of his servers and Irish linens, to contribute to making the opening a success. It was to the opening ceremony dinner in the late ‘50s that Claude sent Bill Lorenz as his personal representative to the Opera Association. After that fateful day that began his journey to Black Hawk and years later to Nederland, Bill formed his own appreciation for the opera and built great friendships with many Opera Association members.

In 1955, Bill bought a ‘52 Buick Riviera and invited one of the chambermaids and a telephone operator from the Brown Palace to accompany him on a ride up to Mount Evans. Bill remembers distinctly that it was June 21, 1955. He said, “In Denver it was 95 degrees. In Idaho Springs it was in the 70s. At Echo Lake it was raining hard, and as I got higher it turned into a blizzard. The windshield wipers quit on me, and my heater didn’t work. That was the time of hot pants, and those little girls were wearing light shirts and those short-short pants. They were freezing their fannies off.”

Grateful to make it back down the mountain in one piece, Bill stopped in Idaho Springs to have the car repaired. Then he drove to the Tollgate Saloon in Central City for a stiff drink. Bill said, “The Tollgate was run by Earl Pearson, and he was serving a buffet upstairs in the Blue Room. It attracted some of the local people and all they served was chicken, rabbit, and a lot of vegetables and starches. It was like $1.00 a throw.”

Bill recalls one of his colleagues from the Brown was tending bar and the drinks were free. He said, “I was pretty much into the grapes when I became acquainted with an elderly couple, Margaret and Jesse Clemens. They owned a property in Black Hawk that had a different occupant almost every year, and the Clemens wanted to sell the place. So, I bought it.”

Bill’s bartender friend told the Clemens couple that Bill had a large inheritance coming from Germany, which was a lie. He bought the building for $5,000, paying $1,000 down and $65 a month. Bill reiterated that he was well into his grapes at the time. He said, “But, I figured I could make sixty-five bucks a month washing dishes. So, I wasn’t concerned about that part.”

The Clemens asked him if he wanted to see the place before he bought it, and Bill told them he did not care what it looked like because he was going to change it anyway.

Bill continued working at the Brown Palace and on his days off, he would grab a case of beer and some friends and go up to his future restaurant in Black Hawk.

Then Bill went to work at Miller’s Matchless Restaurant in the Mile High Center in Denver, and it was at the Matchless where he met and partnered with Jimmy Hogan. Bud Miller from Duluthe, Minnesota owned the building, however, Bill said he and Jimmy ran the “joint.” It was while they were Captain and Maître d’ at the Matchless that Bill and Jimmy began working on the restaurant in Black Hawk. They worked day and night getting the place ready. They slept in sleeping bags on the floor and lived on ham hocks and beans that they cooked in an electric skillet Jimmy had gotten from his parents.

A day or two before they opened the restaurant, a little boy came in selling tickets to the Fireman’s Ball at Crook’s Palace, but Bill and Jimmy had less than a dollar between them. Bill said, “When the boy came in to sell the tickets for the Fireman’s Ball, I decided I was done with being poor.”

So, Bill set out to hock his Leica camera that he brought with him from Germany. Otto Blake was running the Texaco station across the street, the oldest Texaco station in the State of Colorado. He gave me a tank of gas on credit so I could make it to Larimer Street and the hockshop with my camera. “I went down to Larimer Street in Jimmy’s car. Between the two of us, we had an Austin Healey sports car and a Chevy split shift, manual. It was a $400 camera, but the hockshop gave me $200 – I later got the camera back. When I got that money, I paid Otto for the gas and we went to the Fireman’s Ball and got drunker than hoot owls. We had a good time.”

Three years after buying the building, Bill and Jimmy opened their doors to the Black Forest Inn on March 1958, but nobody came. The second day they had three guests. Bill recalls one was an architect from Colorado Springs and the other two were his friends. From then on, business increased day-by-day, forcing Bill and Jimmy to serve dinners in the small back room. As the crowds grew, tables and chairs were set up and they served dinners in the upstairs bedrooms. Bill said, “It was a humble beginning.”

From a starting seating capacity of 32 in 1958, to when Bill left the Black Forest in Black Hawk in March of 2000, they grew to a seating capacity of 1,100. Over the years, Bill had added on several connecting buildings, plus had accumulated some 38 acres of patented gold mining claims.

Bill Lorenz did much more than build a restaurant that became a Colorado landmark and nationally recognized destination. He served on the City Council of Black Hawk for 18 years. He was also Justice of the Peace for two years, and Mayor for six years.

Sadly, the old Black Forest Inn in Black Hawk is now a pile of dirt on Gregory Street between Crooks Palace and the Bobtail Mine. However, in 2013, Bill Lorenz partnered with his cook and long-time friend, Alfred Arias, to open a new Black Forest Inn in Nederland, Colorado. Most of Bill’s staff went with him to the Nederland location where they serve the same authentic and exquisite German American cuisine as Bill served in Black Hawk for over 42 years.

I speak from personal experience when I say the food, the service, and the atmosphere is five star. We ate in the Garden Room with its twenty-foot waterfall, floor to ceiling windows with amazing views of the Continental Divide, Rollins Pass, and Eldora Ski area. Many thanks to Bill Lorenz and his lovely wife Kay for their hospitality and Bill’s willingness to share his amazing story.

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