Union Pacific Depot Renovation - By Robert Rowland
Built in 1886, the Cheyenne Union Pacific Depot had several renovations. Major renovations of the building occurred in 1922 when the structure was extended to its present 331-foot length, and again in 1929 when the interior was modernized to reflect the then current Art Deco style.
In 1990, Union Pacific Railroad generously donated the museum to the City of Cheyenne. The Wyoming Transportation Museum Corporation (WTMC), consisting of local concerned citizens, was founded to save the Depot and convert it into a museum and learning center.
The WTMC administered the initial phases of the restoration, with over $5,000,000 being expended. In the spring of 2001, with the agreement of the County Commissioners, the City of Cheyenne became the sole owner of the Depot building.
The conversion of the Union Pacific Railroad Depot to the Cheyenne Depot Museum Project has been in the public eye since 1990. In 1990 the Wyoming Legislature appropriated two million dollars to be matched with an equal amount from local sources for building stabilization and renovation. A majority of those funds were spent to stabilize and correct significant threats to the integrity of the building and provide basic infrastructure. Since then, funds have been raised through a variety of means to further renovate the building.
Initially, the nationally recognized firm of George Notter & Associates was chosen from over 15 interested architectural and engineering firms to design the depot restoration. Notter was chosen based on his previous experience in designing the restoration of Ellis Island in New York City.
A local team of architects and engineers, including John Parks, Glen Garrett, Doug Coates, and Bob Clary, assisted Notter & Associates. This team created the design development documents for the initial restoration/stabilization of the depot and all related plans, blueprints, documents, and contract supervision of the restoration to bring the initial phase to completion in 1997. The total investment in restoration of the building through this initial phase was $5,100,000.
The initial investment into the restoration of the Depot building ended in 1997. From then until April 2000 little work was done other than to keep the doors open for public viewing and use. In June 2001, the City Council approved the expenditure of $3,250,000 for additional restoration, with another $1,000,000 if needed.
The plaza area, entitled the Depot Square Project, is the one-square block north of the building, bounded by 16th Street on the north and Capitol Street on the west. In December 2001 to April 2002, several significant advancements to the Depot project were made. The firm of Noel Griffith, Jr. and Associates was the Project Manager, the Depot Joint Venture firm of Coates, Clary, and Garrett provided A & E services and David Ohde and Associates provided A & E services for the plaza.
Snake River Brewing Co. (renamed Shadow's Brewery) established a restaurant in the east wing of the building, now home to Accomplice Beer Company since 2016, and is a Cheyenne favorite for great beer and food.
During this same time frame, the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce, Cheyenne Area Convention and Visitor Bureau, and the Downtown Development Authority leased office space on the second floor. Cheyenne LEADS (Laramie County Economic Agency) relocated to the third floor. The west wing of the building (including the 1st and 2nd floors) became a museum operated by the Cheyenne Depot Museum, Inc. and continued the transportation theme.
In July of 2002 the City of Cheyenne, the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum reached an agreement to establish the Cheyenne Depot Museum, Inc. as 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation. The City of Cheyenne leased the Depot to the Cheyenne Depot Museum, Inc. for 25 years with the responsibility to manage the Depot building and the Depot Square Project.
The full restoration of the Depot building was completed with funding through lease income and active use of the building and plaza area by local residents and tourists which ensures the continued operation of the Cheyenne Depot Museum. All of which resulted in the Depot building regaining its full potential as the catalyst for the redevelopment of downtown Cheyenne and the economic development of southeastern Wyoming.