Union Station History
Architectural style: BEAUX ARTS CLASSICISM AND ITALIAN ROMANESQUE (WINGS) Built: 1881, 1914 Architects: AARON GOVE AND THOMAS F. WALSH
The proliferation of railroads into Denver brought many travelers, but also resulted in numerous railroad depots around the city. To aid confused travelers, the Denver Union Depot was built to consolidate the many stations. On May 13, 1881, Union Depot opened. This first building, with its 180-foot tower filled with electric lights, was constructed with pink lava stone called rhyolite. Manitou sandstone from Morrison, Colorado, was placed over the doors and windows. On March 18, 1894, a fire broke out in the main section of the station, destroying the tower and the southwest side of the building. Almost immediately reconstruction was done in a similar Romanesque style. Reorganization of the Denver Union Terminal Railway Company and growing business prompted the razing of the central portion of the terminal, which was replaced with the structure that stands today. The two wings on each side remain from the original construction of 1881.
When passenger trains were a popular way to travel, Union Station saw sixty to eighty daily arrivals and departures and as many as a million passengers each year. After World War II the popularity and frequency of train travel began to wane. On July 4, 1906, Mayor Robert Speer dedicated the Welcome Arch in front of Union Station. The arch was a 65-foot-high, 85-foot-wide gateway structure with 2,194 light bulbs, and served as Denver’s “frontdoor.” In 1908 the Wynkoop Street side was changed to “MIZPAH,” a Hebrew parting salutation from Genesis 31:49. According to one story, some unenlightened Denverites thought that “MIZPAH” was an Indian word that meant “Howdy, Pardner”! Two decades later, the arch was torn down, some say because it had become a traffic hazard. Today’s gateway signage identifying the boundaries of the Lower Downtown Historic District reflects the style and welcome message from the arch that once greeted new arrivals to Denver City.
Present Day Union Station
In 2001, Union Station was purchased by an RTD-organized group. The organization called Union Station Alliance worked to bring current day Union Station to life. Union station officially reopened in 2014.
Denver Union Station is the cultural hub and the “crown jewel” of the city. The addition of world-class dining, shopping, and the award-winning Crawford Hotel has revitalized and transformed Denver Union Station far beyond its humble beginnings.