Think of Union Station like Gretchen Weiners. She has so many secrets, that’s why her walls are so big.
Unlike our favorite characters from Mean Girls, Union Station is much, much older than her Gretchen counterpart. The city's first Union Station cost $525,000 for the Union Depot and Railroad Company to build on June 1, 1881. The remodel costed around $500 million (which says a lot about inflation. Phew!). In the early 20th century, Union Station was a place of hope. For newcomers and dreamers, Denver was a new chance to find fortune. For tourists, Union Station gave way to some of Colorado’s best views.
Like many things, the popularity didn’t last. However, Union Station was 'saved' after its 2014 remodel. A lot of things were destroyed, thrown away, but some things — like the original ticket window — were kept. Here are 10 best-kept secrets you didn’t know about Union Station.
1. The Cooper Lounge holds a speakeasy reputation.
Courtesy of The Coop Lounge (Facebook)
Denver keeps the speakeasy scene alive well after the Prohibition Era. The Cooper Lounge is no exception to the rule. Hidden away from ‘tourists’ eyes’, it’s not that hard to get to. Look for the Cooper Lounge desk on the south side of the main floor of Union Station’s Great Hall (near Amtrak). If there’s space in the lounge, you’ll be escorted past a velvet rope to the lounge upstairs. Best way to secure a spot is to reserve one.
2. Two of the original benches still sit in Union Station.
Those pretty dark, wooden benches are brand new to the five-year-old remodel. However, two of the original benches were saved by the crew. They stand on the north side of Union Station. They didn’t have a good reputation due to how uncomfortable they were and they had asbestos inside! Luckily for us, these benches are asbestos-free!
3. All of the art in the hotel was made by Colorado artists!
This painting by Mai Wyn can be found in one of the hotel rooms. | Courtesy of Mai Wyn
Every painting, sculpture, and photograph was made by Colorado artists. All of it was done by the Crawford Art Program. Each piece collected over time by different artists to create a "home" collection for Union Station. Even some of the coins, passes, and tickets were framed and kept as well.
4. Speaking of original artifacts kept, the ticket window is still here!
Courtesy of The Crawford Hotel
One of the first things you’ll notice inside the Great Hall is the Terminal Bar. And yes, that’s exactly what you’re thinking! That is the original ticket window! Crew workers found it under a layer of drywall. It was fixed to incorporate with the new design.
5. The gold scones are original too, but they’ve been upgraded with LED bulbs.
6. The rosettes around the original scones are columbines, the Colorado state flower.
There are over 2,000 of them on the walls. They stand out more now because they’ve been repainted with white instead of dark brown.
7. There used to be a Mizpah Arch welcoming visitors and newcomers into Denver.
The welcoming arch did its duty for quite some time in the early 1900s. Later on, the 'welcome' sign was changed to 'Mizpah,' a Hebrew parting salutation from Genesis 31:49. Although some natives wrongly thought it was a Native American word that meant 'Howdy, Partner.' The arch was taken down in 1931 because it was a traffic hazard.
People have thought about the arch’s rebirth, but nothing came to fruition.
8. The 112-room hotel is named after Dana Crawford, a woman involved with every major renovation in downtown Denver.
Courtesy of Colorado Women's Hall of Fame
Crawford was involved with saving the Molly Brown House and Larimer Square. After establishing Denver’s first historic district in 1971, she worked on Union Station’s preservation. And she’s still alive and preserving Denver's history today! Go, Dana!
9. The three styles of rooms in the Crawford hotel are reflective of the early 1900s.
Each loft room features exposed timber beams. | Courtesy of The Crawford Hotel
There's Pullman, Classic, and Loft. Pullman rooms are modeled after sleeping cars on trains. Classic rooms may remind you of the Victorian era, when Union Station opened. Loft rooms are decked out in unusual furniture and all of them have exposed brick or wood, reminding you that you’re in the old attic of the hotel.
10. Union Station is the only known RTD building to be haunted.
"There were strange instances of misplaced papers, missing objects, and un-nerving flyers in and around the restrooms. Things that were easily attributed to the Union Station ghosts," said Joe Christie, RTD deputy project manager for Union Station. "I heard stories of a little girl ghost in and around the basement, who scared the bejesus out of some workers down there."
Union Station may be one of the most important and oldest buildings in downtown Denver. There’s so much yet to discover.
Did we miss anything on our list? Let us know in the comments!