The Fort’s founders Samuel and Elizabeth Arnold were both avid historians, and felt a true connection to the American West. The couple wanted to raise their children in the foothills outside Denver, and dreamed of building an authentic adobe home there. Elizabeth, lovingly known as Bay, was struck by the architecture and history of Old Bent’s Fort while reading a history book, and suggested she and Sam build a true replica of the adobe Castle of the Plains to be their family home. Sam—an innovator and entrepreneur—agreed! With the help of famed adobe architect William Lumpkins, the Arnold’s designed The Fort from blueprints of Old Bent’s Fort, and completed the first authentic replica the famed fur trading post in 1963.
While The Fort was built in 1963, it got its start in the heart and mind of founder Samuel Arnold long before. Sam Arnold began his career as a reporter before opening his own media relations group, Arnold & Company. A lover of the American West and a true foodie, he used programming to showcase the region’s rich culinary history with shows like “Food for Thought,” “Frying Pans West TV” and “Feast of Life.” He also hosted “Eating Up the West” on Denver’s top-rated news/talk radio station, KOA NewsRadio. An avid culinary historian and cook, Sam curated a vast library of food journals of early 19th century settlers, trappers and traders, as well as historical cookbooks from the frontier. With this rich culinary background and Sam’s entrepreneurial abilities, Sam and Bay knew they could open a successful restaurant at The Fort, and would offer a menu that truly exemplified the culinary history of the American West—a tradition that stands to this day.
Sam became a nationally recognized authority on the cuisine of the Southwest and early West. He studied with famed chef James Beard, was a close friend to Julia Child and even hosted a state dinner for President Bill Clinton. For his culinary contributions, Sam was presented with an honorary Doctorate of Business Administration in Food Service Management from Johnson & Wales University in recognition of this “pioneering spirit of the Old West,” and his “entrepreneurial drive and resolve to achieve his aspirations.” He was also honored with the prestigious International Association of Culinary Professionals Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedication to preserving the cuisine and lifestyle of the West.
Named “Denver’s Own Chile Guru” by Bon Appetit magazine, and the “Queso Grande” by the Colorado Chapter of International Connoisseurs of Green and Red Chile, Sam Arnold left his mark on the culinary landscape of Colorado and the West. Founding father of The Fort and beloved father to The Fort’s Proprietress Holly Arnold, he remains a hero of western fare and the culinary traditions of the frontier. We are proud to honor his legacy by serving new foods of the Old West at The Fort!