Located at the corner of South Twenty-First Street and US Highway 24 on the west side of Colorado Springs, the Midland Roundhouse is a relatively rare example of a surviving nineteenth-century railroad roundhouse that has been adapted to a new use. Built in about 1889 for the Colorado Midland Railroad, the roundhouse was used by the Midland Terminal Railway after 1918 and then converted to a Van Briggle Art Pottery showroom and factory in the early 1950s. In 2008–9 the building was renovated to house shops, offices, and a restaurant.
A roundhouse is a building where locomotives can be maintained and stocked with fuel and water—the railroad equivalent of a horse stable. Built in a semicircular shape with multiple bays along the interior wall, roundhouses have a turntable in front that allows locomotives to be directed to any of the bays from a single approach track. Roundhouses once dotted the landscape, but very few survived the decline of railroads in the mid-twentieth century because they were specifically tailored for locomotives.
The Colorado Midland had been established in 1883 to run a standard-gauge line from Colorado Springs to the mines at Leadville and ultimately west to Salt Lake City. Led by James J. Hagerman, the railroad reached Leadville in 1887, Aspen in 1888, and Grand Junction by 1890. In the 1890s the Midland Terminal Railway was built to connect the Colorado Midland to the booming gold mines around Cripple Creek.
As the Colorado Midland started service in the late 1880s, the company decided to locate its mechanical and operating headquarters in Colorado City, an older town about three miles west of Colorado Springs. Built around 1889, the roundhouse at the headquarters had fourteen bays and was made of limestone quarried near Castle Rock. Other buildings at the complex included a stone office building, a stone machine shop, and a coal trestle.
After the Colorado Midland’s demise in 1918, the Midland Terminal Railway rented the roundhouse and other shop buildings for a few years and acquired them in 1921. The Midland Terminal continued to use the buildings until 1949, when it shut down and abandoned its old tracks as well as the roundhouse and shops complex.
After the Railroad
The Midland Terminal’s stone shop buildings south of Old Colorado City remained standing after the railroad shut down, although the stone office building burned in 1951 and the large turntable in front of the roundhouse was moved and reused as a county bridge. In 1953 Van Briggle Art Pottery bought the roundhouse and started to use the building as a showroom and auxiliary factory. In 1968 Van Briggle moved all its operations from its old headquarters (now part of the Colorado College campus) to the roundhouse, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Meanwhile, the former machine shop building nearby became the Ghost Town Museum in 1954. In the 1960s the construction of the Midland Expressway (US 24) along the old Midland route destroyed most other remnants of the railroad.
In 2008 Van Briggle moved out of the roundhouse. The Griffis/Blessing real estate company acquired the building for $2.5 million and spent another $2.5 million remodeling the interior. The renovated building opened in 2009 with Carmichael Training Systems as the anchor tenant. Today the roundhouse is home to the Blindside skateboard and snowboard shop, medical offices such as Synergy Physical Therapy and Colorado Springs Health Partners, and a location of Colorado Mountain Brewery. Visitors enter the businesses through the large bays once used for locomotives.