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.
Local Citizens Financed and Built Provo’s First Railroad in 1873
Undaunted, Young supervised the organization of the Utah Central Railroad Company to span the 37 miles between Ogden and Salt Lake City. The last spike on this railway was driven on January 10, 1870.
A year after the completion of the Utah Central Railroad, local investors incorporated the Utah Southern Railroad, which was initially to run the 65 miles from Salt Lake City to Payson. Officials broke ground for the railroad on May 1, 1871, and Brigham Young drove the first spike a month later. When construction reached Utah Valley in 1872, Young encouraged the people to provide cash, labor and ties in exchange for stock in the railroad.
Provo City gave the railroad a right of way along 600 South in 1872, and in 1873 City leaders selected a location for a depot where 600 South intersects what is now University Avenue. On that site, the company erected a frame warehouse measuring 21 by 64 feet on the south side of the tracks and a ticket office on the north side.
Workmen completed the railroad to Provo late in November, 1873. The first official trail from Salt Lake City arrived on November 24, the day of the opening celebration. About 2,000 people gathered at the depot to hear music played by the Provo Brass Band and the speeches of church and civic leaders.
Today’s UTA FrontRunner station and transportation terminal is located near this same site.