Threatened: Loveland’s Great Western Sugar Depots
There are two small white, wooden buildings sitting vacant on Monroe Avenue and 10 Street in Loveland. Though they look a bit lost and forlorn, they continue to stand as a reminder of days gone by when the Loveland Great Western Sugar factory was at the heart of the city’s economy. The depots were used for passenger service as well as freight. But in the mid-1980s, they were decommissioned. Wanting to protect a building that held deep memories for many, the windows were boarded up, but the boards were painted over to look like glass windows so that the buildings would continue to appear like they were in service. Five years ago, however, the company that owns the land decided that the depots had to go. That’s when the Loveland Historical Society decided to step in and try to save the buildings.
The Great Western passenger depot was built by the Great Western Railway in 1902, the year after the sugar factory opened. The factory was the first Great Western Co. sugar plant in Northern Colorado, although three other sugar processing plants had previously been built in the state. The sugar factory drove our economy for eight decades and grew Loveland’s population by 300% the first decade of operation! It was a major contributor to the area’s economic success and remains a very important piece of our history and heritage. All the next generations in Loveland deserve a chance to know and appreciate the Great Western legacy.
The Great Western Railway’s main purpose was to transport beets from outlying farmers’ beet dumps, as well as refined sugar, molasses, coal and lime rock, but it also operated passenger service from 1917 – 1926. Before and after passenger service years, it was used as the railroad agent’s central office. In the 1980s, Great Western Railway offered popular rail excursions, and school classes rode cabooses for years, but the railroad never got back on its feet. The passenger depot was closed in the mid-1980s. The little freight depot to the east was built in 1942.
OmniTRAX, Inc. owns the railway system now. In 2012, the Loveland Historical Society was negotiating a lease, which would have left the depots on railroad land, and was planning to fundraise and seek grants for restoration as probably a Great Western Sugar museum. At that point, OmniTRAX decided the buildings had to go due to their new plan to bring oil tanker trucks onto the property from Monroe Ave. The buildings were in the way, and the railroad gave the historical society 30 days to move ‘em or lose ‘em. Our volunteer who was working to save the depots hustled to find someone to take them, thinking that saved but gone is better than demolished. LHS reluctantly agreed, and the depots were happily claimed by the Moffat Railroad Museum in Granby, who also planned to fundraise and take the buildings apart to move them over the mountain.
But after four years of expecting them to be frisked away every day, the Loveland Historical Society has formed a committee that has redoubled efforts to save the depots in Loveland where they belong. OmniTRAX will give the buildings to anyone who will get them off railroad property. The contract between OmniTRAX and the Moffat Railroad Museum still has not been signed, making them fair game. We don’t want to lose that part of our history. We need Loveland’s help!
The Loveland Historic Preservation Commission and a new county-wide preservation non-profit, Historic Larimer County, are supportive of the efforts to save the depots, offering invaluable knowledge and expertise. The depots have been nominated to the 2018 Colorado’s Most Endangered Places list, run by Colorado Preservation, Inc. in Denver. We will need to fundraise approximately $60,000 to cover inspection and abatement of hazardous materials, the cost of moving the buildings, and at least one new foundation. Then we will seek various restoration grants. The buildings are eligible for listing on the State and Local Historic Registers, but only if they are kept in their historic context near the sugar factory. Without a historic registration, grants would not be available.
The historical society will approach the City about possibly moving the buildings just south to leased City land. Once saved, restoration will have to be accomplished in phases, as with the Milner-Schwarz House. Plans for reuse could include a Great Western Sugar museum, model railroad, coffee shop or some other income-producing retail enterprise, or all the above! We will begin by taking pledges for monetary and in-kind support. Look for “Save Loveland’s Great Western Depots!” on Facebook. Find a pledge form at the Loveland Museum, the Library and lovelandhistorical.org. Mail to: Save the Great Western Sugar Depots! PO Box 7311, Loveland, CO 80537.
You can help by contacting your City Council person and asking him or her to please save Loveland’s Great Western Depots! Message number: 970-290-0169.
The Loveland Great Western Sugar Company depots are beloved remnants of the community’s past that could be revitalized and once again become a place where memories are made.