Depot Art Center sees new improvements, maintains its place of importance in the community |

Depot Art Center sees new improvements, maintains its place of importance in the community

Employees of Wilson Roofing work on top of the Depot Art Center earlier this week. The new roof is part of a $250,000 improvement project to update the building and also makes the building look more like it did when it was built in 1909.
John F. Russell

— In Steamboat Springs, the Depot Art Center is a lot more than just another building.

This summer, that building is getting a much-needed face lift thanks in part to a $250,000 grant the city received from the state historical fund. The money is being used to update some basic things, including improvements to the dated electrical wiring, improvements to the building drainage and an improved roof in order to help it maintain modern standards.

But some of the improvements to the building also will bring its appearance back to the days when it opened.

On Jan. 6, 1909, the Depot opened its doors in the sleepy town of Steamboat Springs, and for generations of Routt County residents, it became the place where visitors came and went. It was place where families gathered to say “hello” to relatives and cried when they had to say “goodbye.” For generations, the train depot connected the mountain community of Steamboat Springs to the rest of the world.

But that ended in 1968 when the Depot ended regular passenger service because improved means of transportation had made riding the train obsolete. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, but that didn’t mean it was safe.

The building was condemned In 1972, and its place in Steamboat Springs’ history was nearly buried before Eleanor Bliss and Carol Finnoff stepped in to save the building.

The women, who had started the Steamboat Springs Arts Council in May 1972, led a campaign to save the building. They raised the $400,000 to restore the building and cement its foundation in our town’s history.

“It was going to be leveled,” said Kim Keith, Steamboat Springs Arts Council co-director. “The passenger train had stopped.”

When the Arts Council moved into the building, it became not only Steamboat’s first art gallery, but also a center where people gathered to enjoy housed performances and family gatherings.

This summer, thanks to the grant and $50,000 put up by the Arts Council, the building is getting some tender loving care.

Steve Hoots, the city’s facility maintenance manager, said the improvements are needed to protect the historic fabric of the building and to protect the safety of the people inside.

Improvements include addressing the roof deficiencies and include insulation and waterproofing the roofing system, ventilation of attic space and replacement of the existing non-historical metal roof with historically appropriate roofing materials. It also will include the replacement of snow retention devices and flashing and gutter improvements.

There will be work to the foundation and work to improve drainage so that water flows away from the building, and it will be improved to meet current energy standards. The exterior also will get a face lift of sorts as missing or deteriorated wood components are replaced and a new coat of stain is applied. In addition, non-historical landings and railings will be taken off the building.

“We want to get the building back to its original look,” Hoots said. “It’s not exciting stuff. We want to maintain the historical properties of the building, but we also want it to meet today’s standards.”

Keith said there are lots of challenges when it comes to working on a building with the Depot’s historical significance in the community. Currently, the roofing project is a little behind because there were five layers of roofs that had to be removed before a new one could be installed. It means a lot more steps, and a lot more expense. But in the end, she thinks it’s worth it.

“This has always been an important building in our community,” Keith said.

Today, the Depot Art Center hosts more than 10,000 people per year, is the site of several art shows and is the center for a number of community events.

Keith said while the building’s purpose has shifted, its place as an important gathering point has not.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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