When Grand Junction's Union Station opened in 1906, the newspaper accounts gushed about the building's craftsmanship, decoration and style, sparing no adjective from the flowery descriptions of the Italian Renaissance architecture.
The Daily Sentinel wrote in great detail about everything from the wainscoting to the color scheme, noting the seven shades of green complementing the brown and ivory décor and the intricate plaster work.
But there was no mention of what was constructed underneath the building, something that has been rediscovered recently and intrigues the building's owner and those interested in the century-old depot's history.
The first indication that tunnels ran underneath the building came when workers cleared out the northwest part of the building, formerly the area of the ladies' waiting room, back in August. They moved some boards and found small holes in the floor, and when they shined a flashlight into the holes they could glimpse a cavity below. It turned out to be a concrete room with tunnels, according to owner Dustin Anzures.
On the opposite side of the building, in the baggage claim wing, they found another entrance to the tunnels. Once inside, they found it traveled about 30 feet north toward Pitkin Avenue before it met a steel door blocking the passage. The hatch is about 24 inches by 18 inches and hasn't been opened yet.
The tunnel is the latest in a series of architectural discoveries made by the new owners, who bought the building in 2016 for $350,000, according to tax records. The depot, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992, was listed as threatened by neglect before Anzures purchased it. And now that he's cleaning it up, he's finding mysteries like the tunnels.
Old urban legends in Grand Junction rumored that downtown tunnels existed for shady activities in the past, namely for moving alcohol during Prohibition. Though there isn't any concrete evidence of this underground activity, the stories persist and the rediscovery of the Grand Junction Union Station tunnel has resurrected them.
"I think (the tunnels) were built for utilities, but they were probably used for other things," Anzures said.
He said he believes the tunnels continue past the bricked-up portions, and isn't sure where they lead.
Before he bought the station building, Anzures said he didn't really get excited about history. His business was more about return on investment, but he said this project is different and he's motivated to also consider how to incorporate the historical spirit of the building into its next incarnation.
"It has really lit a fire," he said. "I'm way into this now."
Anzures, who has a background in residential developments in Arizona, bought the building after noticing it was for sale on a trip back to the valley to visit family. He knows the history of the building is valuable, and has seen interest from strangers who stop in and just want to see what's inside.
"Is the station open for tours?" Amtrak conductor Jesse Redden asked last week, stopping in after the California Zephyr arrived.
Redden, who travels from Ogden, Utah, a few days a week, popped by just to walk through and see the progress like so many other visitors who arrive by train. They all want to know what's new, or what's been found that's actually really old.
Most of Anzures' discoveries have been architectural, evidence of the changes the building went through over the years.
"We keep peeling back the layers and finding something new every time," he said. The addition of a second floor for offices left prominent scars on the plaster work, but the vast, 22-foot ceiling and the ornate stained glass window on the south side impresses visitors.
Behind an old ticket counter on the south side of the building, they cleared out a space stacked almost floor to ceiling with old stuff, relics of the station including the original iron security gate from the original ticket counter.
Some items from the building existed at one point but are now missing, including an old wooden phone booth and the original safe. Anzures hopes someone still has these items and would be willing to get them back to the station, so they can be part of the redevelopment and provide more ties to the property's past.
He's looking for any old interior photos of the station or artifacts from the building and can be reached through the station's Facebook page, GJ Union Station.
Anzures is also reviewing tenant applications and is looking for the right fit from a restaurant as the anchor tenant. He's planning on preserving as much of the character of the building as possible but will adapt the space for what building will become. His vision for the station is to have multiple tenants, a gathering space for not only travelers who arrive by train but also the community, something along the lines of the redevelopment of Denver's Union Station.