Doors OPEN Denver 2017 Headquarters
Pictured above: The beautifully renovated lobby of Denver Union Station.
The Beaux Arts building has been fully restored, honoring all historical elements of its original construction.
Architects: William E. Taylor, 1881; Gove & Walsh, 1914; Tryba Architects and J.G. Johnson Architects, 2014 Architectural Style: Italianate Romanesque, 1881; Beaux Arts, 1914 Year Built: 1881 & 1914, rennovated 2014 Designation: National Register of Historic Places, Denver Landmark
Photo Restrictions: No
In 1881, Union Station was created in order to centralize several railroad operation depots, including Union Pacific’s, Denver & Rio Grande Western’s, South Park & Pacific’s, and Colorado Central’s. The owners of the original four lines agreed to build a combined station, complete with a central clock tower. The central portion of the station was destroyed by a fire in 1894. A Kansas City firm, Van Brunt & Howe, was hired to rebuild a larger replacement depot in Romanesque Revival Style. The original partnership dissolved in 1912 and was replaced by the Denver Terminal Railway Company which represented the major rail operators at the time, including Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe; Chicago, Burlington & Quincy; Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific; Colorado & Southern; Union Pacific; Denver & Rio Grande Western railways.
The wings are original, Italianate in design and made of rusticated rhyolite, a pink lava stone from the Castle Rock formation, along with limestone trim. They feature tall narrow windows, and motifs of Colorado’s state flower, the Columbine.
In 1914 the center section was replaced with the larger Great Hall to accommodate the number of people arriving in Denver each day. The exterior is terra cotta and granite in a Beaux Arts style, and features tall, multi-story arched windows, bays on the façade, and terrazzo floors. The public space is a barrel vault spanning the entire width of the Great Hall. A Columbine motif appears on the borders of the arched bays, metal light sconces, and the marble paneling. The building has many windows, which allow for abundant light.
In 1970, several prominent early Denver entrepreneurs including William Cheesman, John Evans, and William Byers, among others,, brought trains to Denver by creating the Denver Pacific Railroad, a 106 mile spur connecting to the trans-continental railway in Cheyenne, Wyoming. A second rail line, the Kansas Pacific, came from Kansas City. Both the Denver Pacific and the Kansas Pacific arrived at the station within a few months of each other. The Union Pacific Railroad bypassed Denver in order to take advantage of the less treacherous passes to the north, which connected with the Central Pacific coming from the West Coast.
Union Station served over 80 trains daily through the 1920s and 1930s, and functioned as the major transportation source until the 1950s. 1958 was the first year that passenger traffic at Stapleton Airport exceeded Union Station.
Restoration and Reuse
The entire building was remodeled and repurposed from 2012 to 2014. The Crawford Hotel, named for preservationist and adaptive reuse expert Dana Crawford, was added on the second and third floors of the wing buildings. The repurposing was budgeted at $54 million, and was carried out by the Union Station Alliance, which included Tryba Architects and J.G. Johnson Architects, with master planning by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and wing buildings by Anderson Mason Dale and Semple Brown Design. The original ticket counters are now the Terminal Bar, and the current chandeliers were modeled on the originals but are significantly larger. There is ample public space in addition to several restaurants and boutique stores located around the Great Hall on the first floor. The station has rapidly earned its popular reputation as “Denver’s living room.”
The grand building and adjacent area is once again a regional transportation hub. Currently RTD bus, commuter rail, and light rail routes originate here with transfers and connections to other outlying routes, and the University of Colorado A Line commuter rail line connects the city to Denver International Airport. The 16th Street Free Mall Ride runs frequently each day between Union Station and Civic Center Station, while the 18th/ 19th Street free shuttle runs weekday mornings and afternoons through the nearby business districts. Amtrak trains leave Union Station daily bound for San Francisco and Chicago.
William E. Taylor, a Kansas City architect, designed the original 1881 building. Gove & Walsh were responsible for the 1914 design of Union Station when the lobby area was increased. Architect Aaron M. Gove (1867-1924) received his professional training at the Colorado School of Mines and the University of Illinois, and he practiced architecture in Denver for 35 years. Thomas F. Walsh (1866-1948) started his architectural career with Edbrooke and Burnham in Chicago before moving to Colorado, and after arriving in Denver, he supervised construction of architect Robert Roeschlaub’s Trinity Methodist Church. Gove & Walsh became partners in 1894, and they were the architects for many of the warehouse buildings in the LoDo neighborhood.
Tryba Architects is an architecture, urban design, and planning firm based in Denver. Founding Principal David Tryba’s passion for cities directs the firm’s work. Their completed projects throughout the U.S. recognize that for modern urbanism to be successful it must link past and future and re-establish connections between people and their built environments. J. G. Johnson Architects, now Johnson Nathan Strohe, is a 23-year-old firm located in LoDo. The firm, under the leadership of founder James G. Johnson, is recognized for its creative expertise in unique hotel design, emphasizing connection to surrounding experiences and culture.
National Register of Historic Places Inventory: Nomination Form, October 31, 1977; Denver: the Modern City, Michael Paglia, Rodd L. Wheaton and Diane Wray, Historic Denver, 1999; Denver: The City Beautiful, Thomas J. Noel and Barbara S. Norgren, Historic Denver, 1987.; Guide to Denver Architecture (Second Edition), Mary Voelz Chandler, 2013. Historic Denver Docent Information: biography of the Boettchers and the Boettcher Foundation.
For more information, please visit: www.denverunionstation.org.