History Here and Now May 15, 2009

Nonprofit organization will host an unprecedented open house at depot

“Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear” … and maybe a glimpse of the future as well.

Friends of the Grand Junction Railroad Depot, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the depot’s preservation, will host an unprecedented open house from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Grand Junction Depot, 119 Pitkin Ave.

If you are one of those people who have driven by the old depot and thought to yourself that you would like to see what the building is like on the inside, you are in for a treat.

The event will feature tours to view the interior, photographs depicting the history of the depot, drawings of potential restoration ideas and an exhibit of railroad art as well as refreshments, and all to the musical accompaniment of the piano duo of Smoke & Mirrors.

Friends of the Grand Junction Railroad Depot is a group of Grand Junction-area residents who have the shared goal and vision of restoring and revitalizing the historic depot as an important transportation hub, tourist gateway and commercial center downtown.

The public is encouraged to join. Purchase a membership and receive a free art print of the depot. These prints are a reproduction of Colorado artist Jim Hutton’s painting, “Junction’s Jewell,” a beautifully executed watercolor painting that was commissioned for this particular event.

Construction of the depot started April 6, 1905. The depot was completed 16 months later and The Daily Sentinel reported it to be “a credit to a city five times as large. The putting into service of this splendid railroad building marks an important era of local history.”

The public enters the immense oval waiting room through glass-and-oak doors. This room was once one of distinction. As the Sentinel reported, “There is nothing to surpass this waiting room in Colorado or Utah, in point of finish, decorative effects and conveniences.” The room is 63 feet by 33 feet. The original ceiling height was 22 feet, finished in squares of cast plaster detail.

The depot was one of the most handsome, convenient and, at $60,000, costliest small railroad stations of the West. The stained glass for the upper story windows reportedly cost $5 per square foot and an additional $15,000 was spent on improving the grounds around the depot.

Sometime in the 1920s the second floor was extended over the entire oval room to accommodate more office space, and the stained glass in the upper level windows was removed. In the late 1990s this second floor was removed and the oval room once again has the 22-foot high ceiling with the cast plaster detail on the second floor exposed.

The ladies room in the station was the finest of its day. Situated in the northeast portion of the depot, the large, triangular-shaped room was lavishly furnished with modern conveniences of the day.

The gentlemen’s smoking room was in the northwest portion of the building. The room was similar in arrangement to the ladies room but not as lavishly decorated.

On the south side of the room were two big windows opening into the ticket office. The windows were steel-latticed and the counter under each was of solid marble. The original ticket counter was replaced with a large curved counter without windows. Opening from the west wall was an alcove that was a small, cozy rest area, with a fireplace and grate.

In the 1990s the party who started the uncompleted restoration had several of the stained-glass windows on the south side of the building restored.

Kathy Jordan is retired from The Daily Sentinel and involved in many preservation efforts, including the Avalon Theatre, the railroad depot and the North Seventh Street Historic Residential District.

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