Eddie Bohn's Pig 'N' Whistle restaurant and motel on West Colfax Avenue in Denver was gutted by fire around 2:18 a.m. today.

The landmark had been boarded up for years, but it was a reminder of an earlier era in Denver when Colorado boxing mogul Eddie Bohn operated the restaurant.

Phil Champagne with Denver Fire said that when firefighters arrived this morning, flames were shooting out of the east side of the boarded-up structure. He said the fire was an extreme hazard to firefighters because they had to tear down the boards and force entry.

He said the fire had burned through the floor and the basement was completely engulfed in flames. The flames then shot up the walls.

He said area residents said that homeless people had been reportedly been periodically living in the structure.

No firefighters were hurt and no bodies were found in the building. He said the cause of the fire is under investigation.

"It was a landmark," said Champagne of the Pig 'N' Whistle. "The fire expedited its final demise."

Champagne recalled how the diner was a meeting place for many of the movers and shakers of the period. Boxers knew it, and later, movie buffs knew it as a location in the Clint Eastwood movie "Any Which Way but Loose."

Bohn was a close friend of boxer Jack Dempsey, the "Manassa Mauler."

Eddie Bohn opened the Pig 'N' Whistle on June 24, 1924 on the birthday of Dempsey and it quickly became a hangout for athletes, including former New York Yankee Billy Martin.

Punch Bohn, the son of Eddie Bohn and a Realtor who sells ranches and farms throughout the Rocky Mountain region, said his dad was a sparring partner of Dempsey for three years in California.

He said his dad saved $10,000 from sparring with Dempsey and bought the property where he built the restaurant and a motel.

"They were like brothers," Punch Bohn said of his dad and Dempsey.

In the years that followed, hundreds of celebrities, including sports figures and politicians, came to the restaurant as well as hundreds of loyal Denverites who returned to the diner decade after decade, said Punch Bohn.

He said among his dad's closest friends who stayed at the motel and restaurant were premier boxers of the period, including Sugar Ray Robinson, Gene Fullmer and Carmen Basilio.

He said that before big fights, Basilio would come to Colorado, stay at his father's motel, and erect a boxing ring across the street where he would train daily. He said Basilio would also jog around the neighborhood as he prepared for the fights. Basilio would win both the middleweight and welterweight crowns.

Punch Bohn said his dad was devoted to the restaurant.

"He basically loved being in that business," said Punch Bohn. "He was there 24 hours a day. You had to love it! He never did make a lot of money. But he had lots of friends from every walk of life."

"The most popular item on the menu was the Larimer Street Tenderloin which was a half pound of hamburger with strips of bacon wrapped around it to make it look like a tenderloin," said Bohn. "It came with a potato and salad and cost $2.95. It was a big seller."

In addition to the athletes and politicians, his dad counted cowboys, Indian chiefs and farmers as his closest friends, said Bohn. All stayed at the motel and ate at the diner.

Punch Bohn said he had the pleasure of meeting them all.

Punch Bohn said his business - selling ranches in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Nebraska - is successful because he met the families of the rodeo stars, ranchers and farmers who stayed at his father's motel and lived in the region.

The restaurant, at 4801 W. Colfax Ave., expanded to a hotel in the 1930s. Punch closed the restaurant and adjacent motel in 1991, and Eddie Bohn died the next year.

Robert "Bob" Slattery, a retired engineer for the City of Denver, was one of Eddie Bohn's closest friends.

Slattery, 90, said that Eddie Bohn and Eddie's wife, Janet, were very charitable people, who would feed people who were down and out.

"Eddie used to joke that 'We make it (food) fast, and my wife gives it away'."

"You could see a justice of the Colorado Supreme Court sitting next to a miner. It was a very democratic kind of place," said Slattery. "You could find people from all over the country there. You'd find everyone there and they knew each other."

Slattery said among the people that would drop in were people like western TV star Roy Rogers and big band leader Tommy Dorsey.

He noted that Dempsey always stayed in the same room - Room 39.

"It was a sports bar" which bears no resemblance to today's sports bars because it had real sports figures who hung out there, said Slattery.

And when Bohn celebrated his 65th year in business, members of the Coors family came to the diner and poured beer during the party, said Slattery.

"Sixty-five years in business that's pretty good in anybody's language," Slattery said of Eddie Bohn's run at The Pig.

Slattery said he delighted eating the barbecue ribs and steaks at The Pig. "They were always good," he said.

Punch Bohn said the properties have not been in his family since the early 1990s.

Punch Bohn said over the years thousands of photographs of "The Pig" were taken by the Denver media.

"We have a lot of pictures of 'The Pig' and I will cherish them all," said Punch Bohn. "I have a lot of great pictures and a lot of great memories of the Pig."

For more history click on the links below

Pig N Whistle in 1924        Boxer Carmen Basilio  

1960 scene at the Pig        Dempsey at the Pig

Fire guts landmark Denver restaurant Pig 'N Whistle

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