Tuesday, March 3, 2015

TRAVEL BY TRAIN - DENVER'S UNION STATION on "TRAVEL TUESDAY"

Some day I'd love to do just that.  I'd have to get out of Vegas to do it, as there is no passenger train that runs anywhere close to here, but it's on my agenda - some day.  In the meantime, I got a chance to walk through the newly renovated Denver Union Station in January.  The main railway station/central transportation hub is located at 17th and Wynkoop Streets in the present day, "upscale" LoDo (for Lower Downtown) District.  The Station now encompasses the historic terminal building, a train shed canopy, a 22-gate underground bus facility and light rail station, a grand hotel, retail stores and restaurants.
The first Union Station opened on June 1, 1881 at a cost of $525,000.  The impressive structure lasted 13 years before a fire in the ladies' restroom burned it to the ground.
A second version lasted a little longer - from 1894 to 1912 - before crews demolished it and rebuilt to handle increasing passenger traffic.  This time, it was redesigned in the Beaux-Arts style of the day. This present day structure was opened in 1914.
A $500 million dollar* renovation project (*I have found conflicting reports regarding final cost, ranging from $54 million to $500 million, to just now, an fhwa.dot.gov site that lists it at $487.70 million, so your guess is as good as mine - in any case, it was lots of cash!) began in December 2012, with the re-opening of the Station in July 2014.  The majority of the terminal building's upper levels have now been transformed into the 100-room Crawford Hotel, with the 12,000 square foot Great Hall serving as the lobby, public space, and train waiting station - an additional 22,000 sq. ft. house retail shops and restaurants/bars.
The Great Hall was used, historically, as the passenger waiting room.  It featured tall, multi-story arched windows and bays on the facade, with terrazzo floors, two exterior clocks, a metal canopy, and other classical elements.  It's interior actually lacked the grand ornamentation that was commonplace for stations of the time, and instead, utilized a simple color scheme, metal light sconces, and marble paneling.
And, 2,300 carved Columbines (the Colorado State Flower) on the borders of the plaster arches!  It was a a detail I missed while standing in the middle of all the grandeur, but read about - upon checking closer in my photos, there they were.  When originally constructed, the Great Hall housed three 8 ft. diameter chandeliers and ten long wooden benches that incorporated heating and lighting into their framework.  At some point prior to 2012, the chandeliers were replaced with flat, fluorescent panels.

These original sconces had also been under coats of paint for decades, and were restored to their beautiful bronze during renovation.  The renovation returned large chandeliers, similar in detail to the first ones, but also saw the removal of the benches, due to asbestos.  Two original, simple wooden benches were saved, and remain along one wall.
Other modifications included changing the brown and tan color scheme to neutral white.  The old ticket counters and offices have been converted into the Terminal Bar, along with retail and restaurant spaces being created on the periphery of, and opening to, the Great Hall.  "Denver's Living Room", the grandiose Great Hall functions today as part hotel lobby, part Amtrak, part waiting area, part retail and part public space.

A huge bronze plaque outside the Amtrak office, honoring General William Jackson Palmer (1836-1909) - founder of the Denver and Rio Grand Railroad, and the driving force behind the establishment of Colorado Springs as a major American city.
We visited on a day with spitting snow and below freezing temps, hence the grey skies that would normally be vivid Colorado blue.  If you visit, make sure to take in the fabulous mix of the old architecture that was Denver in it's heyday, happily left in place and intermingling with the new.  There's plenty of parking to be found around the area, if you're not traveling anywhere but just want to take a look around for a few hours.
On an adjoining corner to Union Station, sits the Ice House - designed and built around the turn of the 20th century, it was home to the Littleton Creamery and Beatrice Foods Cold Storage Warehouse for some 80 years.  Added to the National Historic Register in 1985, today it houses some of the most sought after loft residences in downtown Denver.
The buildings in these aren't actually leaning, but were taken from behind travelling car windows on a very cold day.  I used to work in the tall white building, upper left.  Denver is fast becoming another downtown New York - 25+ years ago, when I worked there, EVERYTHING closed its doors at 5:00 pm, and people went home to their houses in the suburbs.  Today, it is the center of all that is "hip" - an exciting "young" town now, in an old skin, thankfully!  Hooray for keeping the history and character of the old buildings, in the midst of progression.
A parting shot of the iconic and charming Daniels & Fisher Tower, that I walked by every day on my way to that tall, white building.  Built in 1910 as part of the Daniels & Fisher Department Store (which was later bought by May Co., and eventually called May D & F), this was the tallest tower between Mississippi and California when it was constructed.  Standing 325 ft. tall (20 floors), it has clock faces on all four sides, with a 2-1/2 ton bell housed in the top two floors above an observation deck.  The store is no more, but the tower has been renovated into businesses, and more lofts.

Have a wonderful Tuesday - get out and see something this week, be it old or new - increase your brain power and keep that mind strong.  Be safe - be happy!

8 comments:

Laurie said...

What a wonderful post, Tanya. Coloradoans know how to do it right, don't they? $500,000 in renovations. Impressive and it shows. I've wanted to travel to Denver by train to see my daughter, since she moved there. It just hasn't worked out that way, yet. But one of these days! And, I'll get to see this beautiful train station in person. How awesome!

My Garden Diaries said...

I love that they restored aspects of the station to bring it back to its original details! And what a gorgeous place it is! I am really drawn to the old Colorado architecture that you had photographed up there and would so enjoy to see it! Not to mention have a loft there..... Wouldn't that be cool?!?! Such a wonderful post pal!! Hope you are well and a happy Tuesday to you!!! Nicole xo

Maywyn Studio said...

"Colorado Blue" now that is a very nice name for a sky color. Fascinating post about Denver. I hope you do get a train ride some day.

Jackie said...

My hubby loves trains and space, I think he has a "Sheldon Cooper" in him somewhere!
I wish they would build a train station here in Vegas, would love to ride it back and forth to california!

oldgreymareprimitives said...

I think you should consider writing travel guides professionally <3

Tammy@T's Daily Treasures said...

Now, that's not just a train station -- it's like it's own little town. Wow! We walked all around downtown Denver last July. Will have to check this out if we are there this summer. Best wishes, Tammy

Dorthe said...

What a fantastic and beautiful building it was back then, before the fire, dear Tanya, and the next one ,too so stately ,even the tower has gone . At least they rebuilt it in the same style. It is sad when old buildings are not respected and kept as long as possible.
Hugs from Dorthe

Vicki Boster said...

Sweet Tanya--- I've been away way too long!! You always take us to the most wonderful places...... What a beautiful and elegant building-- great history. How great that this building has been preserved for people to continue to enjoy. The era of great train travel must have been amazing!!
Vicki