Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad Passenger Depot
The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad Passenger Depot opened during World War I at the time the personal automobile was beginning to supplant railroads as the preferred transportation mode of the American public. The Depot opened just as automobiles began to supplant rail travel. For the next half-century the Depot served its purpose, but after World War II and the collapse of the nation’s passenger trains, the Depot gradually fell into disrepair, was abandoned by the railroad in the early 1970s and laid idle for most the decade. Passenger service ended in 1971 and the tracks were removed north of the Depot the following year. A 1975 fire damaged part of northeast corner of the main building. Most of the exterior remains unaltered.
The Depot was designed by E.A. Harrison of Chicago and opened in 1917. The structure was built at an estimated cost of $350,000 and the Gazette Telegraph reported “the railroad company will be occupying the finest station in the entire west devoted exclusively to passenger traffic.” The Depot is rectangular, generally symmetrical, approximately 40,000 square feet and rises two and one-half stories in the center. The façade faces northwest. There was a one story passenger waiting area on the northern end and another one story baggage area on the southern end.
The building features red brick trimmed with limestone set on a poured concrete base. Designed in Jacobean Revival style, it features a steeply pitched roof with a flat top. Windows are wood, most are double hung, often with transom windows above. Window panes are divided by muntins into rectangular shapes, and vary from four lights over four, six lights over six, eight lights over eight, and nine lights over nine. Doors are wood and feature a single glass window with a Tudor arch. The open bays of the former one-story passenger waiting area are now enclosed with large sheets of glass set into metal frames.
The Depot was purchased in 1979 for redevelopment purposes and the building’s interior was reconstructed for office use. The Fred Harvey restaurant was converted to a nightclub as decorative tiles and ceiling were preserved. The owners listed the Depot on the National Register and donated the Easement to the City of Colorado Springs. The City’s HPB continues to administer the Easement through periodic site visits, written reports and review of building permits. The remaining land was used to construct two office buildings between 1979 and 1983. However, the property fell into disrepair over the past three decades.
In October 2014, The O’Neil Group Company, LLC (“OGC”), purchased the blighted Depot and surrounding property to create the “Catalyst Campus for Technology and Innovation”, an educational facility and collaborative workspace intended to incubate business and research and development in the aerospace, defense, and technology sectors in Southern Colorado. The Campus provides a platform for industry, education, and entrepreneurs to share ideas and collaborate on projects. The Campus contains three buildings totaling 97,000 square feet and renovations included the office buildings at 557 and 559 East Pikes Peak.
The Harvey House is a public meeting space available to rent for various types of events. In 1917, when the Santa Fe Depot was built, the ‘Harvey House’ was the location of one of the original Harvey House Restaurants, the first chain restaurant in the United States.
When opened, the Depot featured a Fred Harvey restaurant at the north end of the main building. Placed in many Santa Fe Depots, it solved a dining problem experienced by early rail passengers. When stopped, travelers visited nearby boarding houses, but meals were often overpriced, unsanitary and unpalatable. Fred Harvey, an Englishman, promoted the idea of serving high-quality food in a formal dining atmosphere. Rejected by the Burlington Railroad, he was welcomed by the Santa Fe and constructed his first restaurant in 1876 in Santa Fe Depot located in Topeka, Kansas. Service included tablecloths and cloth napkins, and silver cutlery; male customers were required to wear coats. The Fred Harvey restaurants emerged as one of the first restaurant chains in the United States with 15 restaurants by 1891. Each had a main dining room adjacent to a lunchroom, characterized by a counter with stools. Railroads made fresh food available, and the Harvey Restaurants thrived on supplying excellent food at reasonable prices.
Servers were originally male. Around 1881, noticing that servers often encountered conflict with customers, Harvey elected to replace them with “Harvey Girls.” In an era where employment opportunities for women were rare, Harvey Girls were hired by means of a year-long contract; all wore the standard black shirtwaist dress and white apron and cap. Employees were expected to display good character and morals, and became known for their manners and efficiency. The Harvey Company was one of the first companies to employ women as employees and had female executives. Despite their popularity, the Harvey Restaurants shared the same fate as railroads, yielding to automobile-related dining.
2017 Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad Passenger Depot Historic Preservation Grant provided by the Colorado Springs Downtown Development Authority.