Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Station
This railroad station was constructed between 1908 and 1910 to serve the Denver and Rio Grande and the Western Pacific Railroad. The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad was completed between Denver and Salt Lake City in March 1883, and the Western Pacific between Salt Lake City and Oakland, California, in August 1910. Designed by architect Henry J. Schlachs of Chicago, Illinois, the building cost a reported $750,000 and is characterized by elements of Beaux Arts Classicism and Renaissance Revival architectural styles. Completed in 1910, one year after construction of the important element in the attempt by George Gould to develop a transcontinental railroad system to compete with the Union Pacific. In 1977 the building was given to the State of Utah. It has been occupied by the Utah State Historical Society since December 1980.
302 South Rio Grande Street in Salt Lake City, Utah
In addition to the architectural significance of the Denver and Rio Grande
Station, the building is important for several other reasons. Several historical events, such as the arrival and departure of soldiers during World War I and World War II, the arrival in Utah of prominent public officials as well as other famous people, are associated with the station.
Perhaps of more importance, the station is a tangible monument of the conflict between George Gould, son of the famous financier Jay Gould, and Edward H. Harriman. George Gould constructed a transcontinental railroad to compete with the Union Pacific line which was under the control of Harriman. In order to establish a transcontinental route it was necessary for Gould to finance the construction of a railroad from San Francisco to Salt Lake City, This railroad, financed by the Gould. interests, was the Western Pacific. The large debt incurred by Gould in financing the railroad led Robert G. Athearn in his book, Rebel of the Rockies: A History of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, to describe the Western
Pacific as an albatross hung by Gould around the neck of, the Denver; and Rio Grande railroad. At Salt Lake City, the Denver and Rio Grande railroad, constructed from Denver to Salt Lake City in 1883, connected with the Western Pacific to, form the last link in Gould’s transcontinental railroad system. In order to provide facilities for the district offices of both the Denver and Rio Grande railroad and the Western Pacific, and to provide a modern, impressive station to lure travelers from the Union Pacific, the Rio Grande station was constructed. It stands today as a reminder of the financial struggles for control of the nation’s transportation by the railroad barons during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The station, which has been a major Salt Lake City landmark since 1910, serves as a symbol of a by-gone era when railroad transportation was the best form of overland travel available.