Science center

From left, Telluride Science Research Center Executive Director Mark Kozak, director of donor relations Annie Carlson and board member Sally Puff Courtney outside the Depot building. The organization is hosting a community gathering at the Depot on Friday from 4:30-6:30 p.m. to celebrate the rich history of the iconic building and toast its future as the Telluride Science and Innovation Center. (Courtesy photo)

The Telluride Science Research Center is hosting a community gathering at the Depot on Friday from 4:30-6:30 p.m. to celebrate the rich history of the iconic building and toast its future as the Telluride Science and Innovation Center. The celebration is free and open to the public, and will include live music by the Hush Pups, food and libations.

“We are so grateful to be where we are today. Renovations will begin in a couple of weeks, and we feel honored to steward this storied building into its next chapter,” said Annie Carlson, Telluride Science’s director of donor relations. “We would not be here without the generous support of our community, and we hope everyone will come celebrate with us as we look back on the rich history of the Telluride Depot and excitedly look forward to its future.” 

The Depot’s history runs as deep as the veins of gold and silver pulled from the Telluride valley. Constructed in 1891 during the mining boom, the Depot served as a connection to the rest of the world, bringing in people with fresh ideas and big dreams, while exporting precious metals extracted from the high-alpine basins.  When the railroad ceased operations in 1951, the building stood vacant for many years until Charles and Sue Cobb purchased the dilapidated Depot in the late 1980s and restored it. This was no small task, as the building had no foundation and was essentially four walls supported by cables. Vogy’s House Moving transported the structure a few hundred feet up Townsend Street to sit while a foundation was constructed. When the foundation was complete, the building was moved back into place and set onto the new foundation.

In December 1991, James Loo opened San Juan Brewing Co. at the Depot. The local favorite closed in 1996, but is remembered fondly by many for legendary events, including the New Year’s 1993 debut of The String Cheese Incident. The tradition of gathering over food and drink at the Depot continued when Harmon Brown opened Harmon’s Restaurant. With an upscale-but-intimate feel, Harmon’s was one of the most popular restaurants in town during its 11 years in operation. 

The use of the Depot shifted from creative culinary delights to art and education in 2007, when the Ah Haa School for the Arts purchased the building and moved in. For 13 years the Depot was home to thousands of budding artists and became a cultural touchstone in the heart of Telluride.

When the Ah Haa School set its sights on a new, larger home, Telluride Science saved the Depot from private development when it purchased the National Historic Landmark building in October 2020.

Delaying plans for renovations, Telluride Science leased the Depot to the Telluride Regional Medical Center so that the space could be used as an auxiliary respiratory clinic during the pandemic. In June 2022, the med center moved out, and at long last, Telluride Science finally moved into a new permanent home. The summer was busy with scientist workshops and picnics, as well as public Town Talks. Several individuals and organizations also rented the Depot for private events and parties.

Renovations are slated to start Oct. 10 with an expected build time of 16-18 months. The Telluride Science and Innovation Center will make its grand debut in Summer 2024, according to a news release.

“The Depot has served as a connection to the outside world since 1891, when it was a hub for the Rio Grande Southern Railway. Back then, precious metals were exported from Telluride,” Telluride Science Executive Director Mark Kozak said. “With this project, it will be a community focal point once again, but this time we will be exporting ideas and innovation.”

The building will be available to rent for private events when workshops are not in session. Friday’s celebration will include a raffle, as one lucky winner will receive a complimentary night for a private event in the newly renovated building after its completion in 2024.

Telluride Science has reached 60 percent of its $12 million fundraising goal, with an additional $4 million needed to cover the cost of renovations. To learn more about the Depot project and ways to support it, contact Carlson at annie@telluridescience.org

Telluride Science is also collecting photos and stories about the Depot to share at the community celebration. If you have some to share, email Carlson.