The Broomfield Depot was built in 1909 to serve the Colorado & Southern and Denver & Interurban Railroads. It is a rare surviving example of a combination passenger and freight depot that also served both steam railroad and electric interurban lines, and it is the only Denver & Interurban depot that retains its historical integrity. Originally located where the railroad tracks cross West 120th Avenue near downtown Broomfield, the depot was moved to Zang’s Spur Park in 1976 and now houses Broomfield’s local history museum (2201 W 10th Ave, Broomfield, CO 80020).
Long before the Broomfield Depot was built in 1909, the area’s development was already tied to transportation. The city started as an agricultural community soon after the Colorado Gold Rush of 1858–59. Its position along the Cherokee and Overland Trails allowed local farmers to sell their crops—including the city’s namesake broomcorn—to mining towns and travelers. By 1864 Henry and Sarah Church operated a stage stop in the area.
Later in the nineteenth century, several railroads built lines through Broomfield, starting with the Colorado Central Railroad in 1873. The Colorado Central line through Broomfield later became part of the Union Pacific, Denver & Gulf Railroad, which was eventually absorbed by the new Colorado & Southern Railroad (C&S) in 1898. At the time, Broomfield remained a small unincorporated town, with much of the land in the area belonging to Adolph Zang’s roughly 4,000-acre ranch.
The Kite Route
In 1904 C&S created the Denver & Interurban Railroad (D&I) as a wholly owned subsidiary, with the goal of running an electric rail line from Denver to Boulder and ultimately on to Fort Collins. The company started a local streetcar system in Fort Collins, and in 1907–8 it built an interurban line linking Denver and Boulder. The line went from Denver through Broomfield to near Louisville, where it split in two. One path to Boulder went west through Superior and Marshall, while the other went north through Louisville, forming a “kite” shape that gave the route its name.
The Kite Route’s first train left Denver at 3:00 PM on June 23, 1908, carrying Governor Henry Buchtel, Denver mayor Robert Speer, and Boulder mayor Isaac Earl along with other officials and reporters. “Boulder is now a suburb of Denver,” The Denver Post declared. Regular service started the next day, with trains running every couple of hours. The original goal was for the one-way journey between Denver and Boulder to take only an hour, but the trip usually lasted closer to eighty minutes. By July trains were running every hour in alternating directions around the kite portion of the route, for a total of sixteen round-trips per day.
New Broomfield Depot
To accommodate increased traffic from the D&I, in 1909 C&S built a new depot in Broomfield to serve both electric interurban and steam railroad traffic. Located along the railroad tracks on the north side of West 120th Avenue in Broomfield’s commercial district, the depot was a one-and-a-half-story wood-frame building with a hipped roof and horizontal board siding. Inside, the first floor of the depot was divided in half, with the southern part of the building (closest to the tracks) containing railroad facilities such as the ticket office, waiting room, and baggage area. The north half of the first floor and the entire upper floor served as the station agent’s living quarters, complete with living room, kitchen, pantry, and two bedrooms. Most of the depot’s interior had wood floors and plaster walls and ceilings.
At the time, it was not unusual for railroad depots to include a residence for the station agent, especially in rural areas. By building living quarters into depots, railroad companies could attract workers more easily while also ensuring that they would be on site at all times to deal with any problems. Broomfield’s first station agent was John P. Colstadt, who lived in the depot from 1910 to 1915 with his wife and teenage nephew.
Decline of the D&I
The D&I never achieved its original goal of forging an interurban link between Denver and Fort Collins. In 1908 C&S was acquired by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, which wanted no part of developing extensive interurban systems and halted the D&I’s expansion at Boulder. The only further extensions of the Kite Route were short spurs to Eldorado Springs and to Westminster College. Nevertheless, throughout the 1910s the route attracted an average of 565,000 passengers per year, mostly commuters and tourists.
By the late 1910s, the D&I faced mounting financial problems as more people started to use automobiles to get around. The line then experienced a devastating blow when two trains had a head-on collision in Globeville on Labor Day 1920, leaving twelve people dead. The D&I recovered to post a few profitable years in the early 1920s, but it could not escape the inexorable effects of better road networks and rising automobile ownership. In 1926 the D&I rail line ceased operations and was replaced by the D&I Motor Company bus service.
After the D&I’s demise, the Broomfield Depot continued to serve multiple C&S trains passing through the town daily. As time went on, the depot’s aging residence became less attractive to the agents who worked there, especially since it had no indoor toilet and only a pump for running water. The last agent to live in the depot was John C. Ward, who resided there with his two sons in early 1952.
In 1952 the Denver–Boulder Turnpike opened, offering drivers a direct route between the two cities, and Broomfield started to develop into a metropolitan suburb. As new turnpikes and interstate highways siphoned off traffic, passenger rail service declined across the country. In May 1967, the last C&S passenger train stopped at the Broomfield Depot. After that, station agent Herb Rutledge still served eight to ten freight trains per day, but the depot building itself no longer saw much use and began to fall into disrepair.
In 1970 C&S started leasing part of the depot to the Broomfield Jaycees, who cleaned the interior and installed a new furnace so they could use the building for meetings. Hoping to replace the old depot, in 1975 C&S offered to sell it to the Jaycees for $1 if the Jaycees would move it to a different location. Station agent Rutledge backed the plan, so the Jaycees took over the depot with the support of the newly formed Broomfield Historical Society, which was started with the goal of opening a museum in the relocated building.
In 1976 the Jaycees and the City of Broomfield had the depot moved a little more than a mile northwest to Zang’s Spur Park on the north side of West Tenth Avenue in Broomfield. When it was moved to its new location, the depot was placed atop a new foundation with a walk-out basement, which served as meeting space for the Jaycees. Over the next few years, Broomfield Historical Society volunteers cleaned and repaired the depot’s interior and collected artifacts related to Broomfield’s history. In 1983 the depot opened to the public as a local history museum.
In 1988 the Broomfield Historical Society changed its name to the Broomfield Depot Museum. In 2011 the group sold its collection to the City and County of Broomfield. Broomfield now runs the Broomfield Depot Museum, while the former historical society is now known as Broomfield Depot Museum Friends.
In 2014 the museum was closed for seven months while the depot’s foundation and exterior were repaired with the help of nearly $300,000 from the City and County of Broomfield and the State Historical Fund. At the same time, the basement was remodeled to serve as office space and archival storage. When the museum reopened in early 2015, it featured a new focus on the depot’s history. The ticket office, waiting room, and baggage area now house artifacts from the depot’s interurban era in the 1910s, while the station agent’s living quarters display artifacts and furniture that represent the depot’s appearance in the 1930s. The final phase of the depot’s exterior rehabilitation was completed in 2016, when the building received a new wood-shingle roof.
The depot is a Broomfield Landmark and was listed on the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties in 2016. The museum offers free admission and is open to the public on Saturdays and for group tours during the week.