Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Littleton Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Depot, Colorado

In August and September of 2000, I carried out an archaeological and historical buildings survey of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Depot in Littleton, Colorado. Although this was some time ago, the depot is one of the few remaining examples of the 19th century style of small, stone depots and has some historical significance. It is therefore worth a brief mention here:


The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Depot is located in downtown Littleton, Colorado, 5800 South Prince Street, Littleton, Colorado. However, the structure had previously been moved to a new location on two separate occasions: once from its original site in 1984, in order to protect it from pubic works; and again in 1999 to its present location to service as a component of the light rail stop, linking Littleton with Denver. Amazingly, the building was moved intact by its foundations, with the use of a hydraulic lift to place it on a trailer. It was subsequently driven to the new location and then set down using the same technology.

Historical setting

Only a small agricultural community existed at the time the first railroad (the Denver and Rio Grande or D & RG) reached Littleton in 1871. “Littleton” was named after Richard S. Little who worked as an engineer on the irrigation system of the area, before settling there in 1860. Although the name had been in use for several years, it did not become official until the town was platted in 1872. The D & RG officially opened for service on January 1872, and in the following year the railroad company built a wooden-framed depot. Two years later, this was superseded by the stone depot, which exists today. 
The D & RG line was built by William Jackson Palmer, in order to connect Denver to Colorado Springs (he planned a north-south railroad linking Denver and El Paso, Texas, and continuing to Mexico City). Littleton was merely en route. By 1887 the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe finished its line through Littleton, and in 1889 the D & RG began regular commuter service between Littleton and Denver. The D & RG became the most extensive railroad system in the state of Colorado, contributing significantly to its growth and development.

The building’s significance

The style of the D & RG depot is typical of the railroad style of building produced in the Victorian period. The structure is single-level and measures around 41 by 24 feet (12.5 by 7.5 metres). Although the depot has moved location twice and has undergone various modifications over the years, it nevertheless maintains sufficient integrity in its design, materials, workmanship and use. It is locally significant for its connection with the development of transportation networks, settlement and economy in Colorado during the nineteenth century. The building is the only depot historically associated with the D & RG in Littleton and was an element of the first line from Denver to Colorado Springs in 1871. It is representative of the nineteenth century small-town design of depots in Colorado owing to its simple, rectangular rhyolite structure, and side-gable roof with widely overhanging eaves and decorative braces.

The depot today

The excellent condition of the structure has enabled the depot to be used in association with its original function, as a (light) rail depot in Littleton, with the additional use as a coffee shop (called “Romancing the Bean”). It is practical from an economic viewpoint, being busy with people who enjoy the charming building immensely. The owners of the coffee shop have even furnished the pleasant waiting area with historic photographs.


* HABS/HAER Historic American Buildings Survey. 1982. National Park Service, Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C. 20243.
* Historic Structures Report: Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Depot. 1983. Community Services Collaborative, Boulder CO 80302.
* Littleton Community Network (LCN). 1997. Littleton History.
*Littleton Historical Museum Archives.
*MCQuarrie, R. J. and Bucholtz, C. W. 1990. Littleton, Colorado: Settlement to Centennial. Littleton: Littleton Historical Museum and Friends of the Library and Museum.
*Simmons, R. L. and Simmons, I. H. Littleton Historic Buildings Survey. 1997. Colorado Historical Society. 

Further Information
The full 2000 RCHME report has been deposited with the Littleton Historical Museum (

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