Situated in an industrial corridor, near the S. Platte River and 1-25, the Burnham Yards operated as one of the city’s most significant rail yards for more than 150 years, first as the primary facility for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, and much later for Union Pacific, which acquired the D&RG. The use of the yards pre-dates Colorado statehood, but Union Pacific closed the yards in 2016, and is now seeking a buyer for the land.
As the site’s potential change in use became public in 2016, Historic Denver hired Square Moon Consultants to research the history of the yards and identify potentially important remaining structures. Historic Denver provided this report to Union Pacific and to the City of Denver for use in any planning process, and you can read the full report here.
As noted in the report, “The six surviving historic buildings and three historic site features at Burnham Yards, and their associated relationships, create a highly unusual and significant surviving industrial historic district in Denver. The six contributing railroad buildings date from at least 1901 to 1943, with additions through 1965, and were built foremost as utilitarian industrial facilities to house the bustling activities of the D&RG/D&RGW’s operations. The size and height of the 1901 Coach Shop, the 1924 Steel Car Shop, and enormous 1924 Backshop all reflect their uses to construct, repair, and maintain massive railroad equipment.
All six buildings were designed and built with durable materials and occasional flourishes of bricklayers’ art. The masonry work on the buildings is of high quality, designed and executed by skilled workers. Brick masonry on these buildings reveals common practices that were once common knowledge for craftsman but are exceptional today.”
In the fall of 2019 several news outlets reported that the Colorado Department of Transportation was a serious and potential buyer for the site, but that planning and uses would likely require public process.
Historic Denver has advocated for the adaptive reuse of some of the buildings, and even creative use of extant site features that tell the story of the place. Its an opportunity to reconnect with the adjacent neighborhoods, like La Alma Lincoln Park, that once provided laborers to Burnham Yard, weaving a piece of the city back together. The historic buildings can help inform and compliment new development and uses, including passenger rail, and evoke the important history of this place.