Denver Union Station History and Timeline PDF Print E-mail

So eager was Denver to have its own rail connection to the newly completed transcontinental line that had been built through Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 1869, that the city organized the Board of Trade and announced plans to build its own “home town” railroad. The Denver Pacific Railroad laid track from Denver to Cheyenne marking the beginning of Denver’s place in transportation history.

To view the History Fact Sheet, click here  (In English) - (En Espanol)

The first train arrived in Denver's Central Platte Valley on June 21, 1870. There was one station for the Denver Pacific at that time, and as additional RRs came in over the next decade, each built its own depot. 1870 They were intended as permanent structures. The concept of a Union Station was not developed until 1880, reflecting a national trend.

The Union Depot and Railroad Company built the city's first Union Station. It cost $525,000 and opened on June 1, 1881.


The original Union Station building burned on March 18, 1894, when a fire ignited the electrical system of the ladies' restroom. Damage was considerable. The building's wooden tower was destroyed.


Denver Union Station (DUS) was quickly rebuilt with a much lower roofline and a stone clock tower that replaced the wooden one.

Denver's famous Welcome or Mizpah Arch was built in front of Union Station on 17th Street just west of Wynkoop Street; the arch was formally dedicated on July 4, 1906. The Welcome or Mizpah Arch was dismantled on December 7, 1931, after being deemed a traffic hazard. 1906
In 1914, the Denver Union Terminal Railway Company tore down the stone clock tower and replaced it with the building's lower expanded center section that you see to this day. The depot’s original chandeliers were eight feet across. The original sconces on the walls were under coats of paint for decades. Only recently were they restored to their original bronze tone.


The plaster arches that line the walls of the center room have 2300 carved Columbine flowers in them.

The 1920s and 1930s were the glory days of Denver Union Station. During that time, the station operated 80 trains a day.


Many trains were serving soldiers fighting in World War I & II.



Queen Marie of Romania, along with President Harry Truman are also among the famous people who came by train into Denver Union Station.

Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt arrive by train.



Denver, long plagued by floods, saw Union Station inundated by streams of water on August 4, 1933.



Up until 1958, Denver Union Station had more travelers than Stapleton Airport.


In the late 1980s, the Regional Transportation District (RTD) and the City and County of Denver (CCD) cooperated with the Denver Union Terminal Railway Corporation (DUT), the private owner of the terminal, to make improvements to the site. 1980s These improvements included upgrading rail platforms and canopies and accommodating an RTD bus lane to access Market Street Station from the I-25 bus/High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes.
RTD, the City and the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) cooperated with the Union Station Transport Development Company (USTDC) and various private landowners and businesses to create the Central Platte Valley Light Rail Spur (C-Line), a major public transit connection to DUS. 1997-
2001 In August 2001, RTD purchased the site
in accordance with a jointly funded Intergovernmental Agreement between RTD, CCD, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and DRCOG.
The Denver Union Station project team was initiated by the CCD, RTD, CDOT and DRCOG, known as the Partner Agencies, in May 2002, to develop a Master Plan and prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
for Union Station. RTD bought the station and extended its successful Light Rail transit and 16th Street Mall Shuttle to Union Station.


Great progress was made in 2004 and 2005 to prepare Denver Union Station for the redevelopment now underway. The Union Station site was zoned Transit Mixed-Use (T-MU-30) in order to accommodate future modes of transportation and development on the 19.5-acre site. Union Station also received Landmark Designation from the City of Denver.


After extensive public involvement, the Denver Union Station Master Plan was approved by each of the Partner Agencies. Finally, in November 2004, the voters of the RTD District approved the FasTracks plan, one of the largest single mass transit expansion programs in the country.

2006 In March 2006, the Denver Union Station Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was released for public review and comment. On November 15, 2006, the Partner Agencies announced the selection of the Union Station Neighborhood Company (USNC) as the Master Developer to head the redevelopment and preservation of Denver’s historic Union Station. USNC was chosen because its proposal outlined a way to accomplish the transportation and development goals of the 2004 Master Plan in a single phase, using the concept of a Transit District.
In 2008, the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was completed in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other applicable regulations and statutes. On October 17, 2008, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) signed the Denver Union Station Record of Decision (ROD) which confirms that construction of the proposed arrangement of transit improvements could proceed. 2008


Also in 2008, the Denver Union Station Master Plan Supplement was approved by the Partner Agencies to update information about the proposed treatment of various transportation and development elements.


On September 18, 2009, members of Colorado’s congressional delegation joined White House cabinet members on a tour of Denver Union Station, highlighting its important roles in sustainability, affordable housing and transit-oriented development. Also in 2009, Design Standards and Guidelines were adopted by the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission and the Denver Planning Board.

Officials from DUSPA, RTD and City and County of Denver hosted a Denver Union Station Construction Celebration on September 7 on the west side of the historic station on the site of the future commuter rail station. State and local officials participated in the ceremony, including Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, Denver City Councilwoman Judy Montero, CDOT Executive Director Russ George and RTD Chairman Lee Kemp.



On February 4, Amtrak temporarily relocated from the historic Denver Union Station to 1800 21st St., at the intersection of 21st and Wewatta streets, west of Coors Field in Denver’s Prospect Neighborhood. The temporary station—completely accessible to passengers with disabilities—offers Quik-Trak® self-serve ticketing kiosks, free WiFi and vending machines with snacks and beverages. In addition, free parking is available at the temporary station for Amtrak passengers with proper validation.

DUSPA and RTD held a lunch time event on May 18 to officially open the Denver Union Station Light Rail Plaza.

In conjunction with the opening, officials held a photo contest. Kimberly Jones submitted the winning photograph, entitled “Modern Sky,” which she described as a unique shot of the plaza highlighting the surrounding architecture and contrasting with the natural beauty of the Colorado sky.




RTD approves the lease of the historic Union Station building to the veteran development team of team of Sage Hospitality, Larimer Associates, REGen LLC and Urban Neighborhoods.

The team will transform the historic building into a mixed-use, transit-oriented hub with a planned opening in mid-2014.

The redevelopment of DUS is a unique project that will bring together many different transportation modes as well as new private development, to create a bustling urban center and multimodal transportation hub in downtown Denver. Scheduled to be completed in the spring 2014, DUS will be the heartbeat of activity in the city and the centerpiece of a new age of connectivity in the region.



Both images - © SOM & Red Square

Photos courtesy of the Western History Department, Denver Public Library and the Regional Transportation District.



Denver Union Station