The city recently acknowledged formally one more structure integral to Montrose’s rich history: The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Depot, located on Rio Grande Avenue.
The city-owned depot is the town’s second railroad depot and is known for its association with Montrose’s history of transportation, according to City Planner William Reis.
The strcuture opened in Montrose on June 3, 1882, just a month after Montrose was founded. Pretty soon, it was considered “the most important station west of Gunnison City,” Reis said.
The Mission Revival style depot, inspired by Spanish missions constructed throughout California between 1769 and 1823, provided passenger and freight services at the popular rail junction.
The building boasts a terra cotta tile roof, overhanging eaves, shaped parapets and arched porches, according to the city planner.
Railroads in Colorado between 1858-1948 played a large role in the overall development of the state.
Depots weren’t always so recognizable as they are today. According to the National Register of Historic Places, depots provided the primary focus for train business conducted at stations. They are known to house passenger waiting rooms, the ticket and telegraph office, the freight office and sometimes the station agent’s own living quarters. After about 30 years (around the time the Montrose depot was built), depots evolved from looking like any other public building to what is recognized today.
The depot Montrose knows today replaced the smaller, original structure in 1912 and serviced Ouray and San Juan mountain communities from its southern branch and connected with the Rio Grande Southern Railroad in Ridgway. Lines running east to Gunnison and Crested Butte were eventually added.
The property was designated as a Montrose County landmark in 2016. After a July 20 vote, it also was added to the City of Montrose’s register of historic places. The structure is the eighth addition to the city’s register. It can also be found on the National Register of Historic Places and the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties.
The depot has been home to the Montrose County Historical Museum since the 1970s.
In order to join the city’s historic registry, the structure had to meet the following criteria: the structure must be more than 50 years old; the building must be significantly associated with Montrose’s history, and the design must reflect historic architectural standards.
“As the first building many of Montrose’s early visitors would have passed through upon arrival to Montrose, we feel that the Denver & Rio Grande Depot is a worthy addition to our local historical register,” Reis said of the decision.
“I hope that this designation will inspire visitors and locals alike to visit the Montrose County Historical Museum in order to learn about this important piece of Montrose history, and to learn of the cultural legacy of Montrose County.”
The museum/historic depot is located at 21 N. Rio Grande Ave. and is open May — September, from 10 a.m. — 5 p.m., Monday — Friday, and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. — 2 p.m. Admission: $8 for adults; $4 for students/military. Info: montrosehistory.org or 970-249-2085.
Cassie Knust is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press.