The Steamboat Springs Depot was built in 1909, when the Denver, Northwestern & Pacific Railway arrived to connect the Yampa Valley with mineral, agricultural, and livestock markets in eastern Colorado and beyond. Abandoned in 1968 with the cessation of passenger service, the two-story red brick depot was deeded to the town of Steamboat Springs in 1971, when it began its transformation into a hub for the arts. Today the Steamboat Springs Depot continues to provide a community-oriented and convivial space for an eclectic mix of visitors, from theater enthusiasts to lovers of paintings, fans of cabaret, and expert snow sculptors.
Steamboat Springs had no railroad connection when it was incorporated in 1900. Beginning in 1906, several prominent members of the Yampa Valley community met to lay the groundwork for bringing a railroad to Steamboat Springs. At the time, Denver-based financier David Moffat, then the wealthiest man in Colorado, had incorporated the Denver, Northwestern & Pacific Railway Company (DN&P) to build a mainline transcontinental route west from Denver. Moffat’s DN&P, a route whose fifty-six tunnels were more than those found in the rest of Colorado’s railways combined, was originally meant to take a shorter, alternative route. However, largely as a result of the town offering to pay for the construction of a depot, the railroad agreed to route through Steamboat Springs.
After a two-year planning and fundraising period, construction on the depot was finished by 1909. Designed by renowned Denver architect Frank Edbrooke, the partial two-story building featured a red brick exterior with large overhanging eaves. Inside, the eastern half of the first floor contained a passenger waiting area and station office, while the western half provided ample space for large freight and passenger baggage. The second floor of the depot served as living quarters for the stationmaster. The first train arrived in Steamboat Springs on December 19, 1908, before the depot was fully operational; the first passenger train reached town on January 6, 1909.
The depot proved to be an economic boon to the area, connecting the region’s growing mines and small agricultural operations with bustling eastern markets. The depot also spurred new development in Steamboat Springs. Across the Yampa River from the depot, the Cabin Hotel opened to house tourists visiting the natural mineral springs nearby. Notably, famed Norwegian ski jumper Carl Howelsen arrived a few years after the depot was built, helping to turn Steamboat Springs into one of the premier ski-jumping locations in the world.
The depot closed when passenger service to Steamboat Springs ended in 1968 as a result of improvements to roads and highways in the area. In 1971 the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad deeded the building to the town of Steamboat Springs, and the Steamboat Springs Art Council began operating out of the depot the following year. However, despite being listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, the depot was slated for demolition. To prevent the loss of the historic depot, in 1980 Eleanor Bliss, a founding member of the Steamboat Springs Arts Council, organized the “Save the Depot” campaign. Bliss helped get the depot rehabilitated for safe, full-time use.
No longer the hub of the region’s economy, the Steamboat Springs Depot now attracts visitors of a different kind. The Steamboat Springs Arts Council organizes concerts and plays in the old baggage storage area, while the passenger waiting area features regular art exhibits. Upstairs, the former station master’s quarters serve as office space for the arts council. The building regularly hosts cabaret, writer’s workshops, and holiday events, including the century-old Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival Snow Sculptures event.