Union Station: Before The Restoration

Last Saturday, DenverInfill and Union Station Advocates co-hosted an informal public open house at Denver Union Station for anyone who wanted to stop by for one last look inside the historic station before it is closed for the next year and a half for its long-awaited restoration and conversion into a mixed-use transit center with shops, restaurants, and a boutique hotel.

Despite the number of times I’ve been inside the station—I’ve given about 50 Union Station tours since October 2010—I realized I didn’t really have many decent photos of the inside of Union Station’s great hall. So, I arrived at the station about an hour early on Saturday to take some photos before the crowds arrived. It was a beautiful summer-like December 1st, already pushing 60 degrees by 9:00 AM. As I expected, the station was deserted. Since 2011 when the light rail station moved to its new location at the other end of the Union Station transit district and Amtrak moved to its temporary location at 21st and Wewatta, Union Station has been even quieter than normal, and “normal” for the past few decades has been pretty darn quiet already.

I had the great hall to myself for nearly half an hour. The intense Denver morning sun was streaming through the big east windows, as it has for the past 35,000 mornings. I was alone, yet I could sense the enduring presence of the millions of people who have passed through that voluminous space over the past century: people eagerly awaiting visitors from far away, people saying goodbye to friends and loved ones for perhaps the last time. The complete absence of people in such a historic public place left me feeling pensive—not in a sad way, as if the building was about to be torn down—but in a serene way, knowing that a momentous and welcome transformation was about to begin.

Here are a few photos of Denver Union Station’s last sunny Saturday morning before the renovation begins:

In 2016, pass through these doors and step onto a train that will transport you directly into the terminal at Denver International Airport:

Let’s head up to the great hall’s mezzanine. There’s something special about this space. I always feel content there. Maybe it’s the awesome view down 17th Street or just all the natural daylight. Regardless, this is going to make a great hotel lounge:


The view overlooking the great hall is special too:



The old station will be getting some well-deserved TLC and, yes, those hideous florescent chandeliers will be replaced with replicas of the original light fixtures:


The stairways and hallways leading to the mezzanine:



Finally, the world’s most uncomfortable benches (maybe some cushions are in their future?):


Take care, Union Station. See you in 2014!


By | 2016-12-11T22:54:19+00:00 December 7, 2012|Categories: Adaptive Reuse, Historic Preservation, Transit-Oriented, Union Station|Tags: |4 Comments


  1. Ted December 8, 2012 at 9:31 am

    As a former Amtrak rider, I completely agree that those benches are horribly uncomfortable… The rendering I’ve seen shows benches that are similar but not exactly the same, with MUCH deeper seats (the real reason those are so uncomfortable). Are those benches original or might they be scrapped and completely replaced like the chandeliers?

    • Ken Schroeppel December 8, 2012 at 10:26 am

      I believe they are going to keep the benches, but moving some of them into other parts of the building and adding cushions are possibilities.

  2. Rob C December 8, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    Very well written Ken! Thanks for the photos!

  3. DUS Watcher December 10, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Over the last year or so, I have been visiting the building a lot for often better views of the ongoing construction, and also to experience the emptiness that is the building. I’m excited for its transformation and having it bustling once again! I certainly hope you all at the infill will be able to visit a few times over the next year and a half to give us updates of the transformation. I am eagerly awaiting my first return visit to the building.

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