Doors now windows at 1887-built roundhouse

       “We'll make those old folks proud.”
       Larry Whitaker, architect for the Roundhouse commercial center project, was speaking, among other things, about the glass that workers have recently been installing in front of the bays that train engines used long ago at the Midland Roundhouse.
       They're the same size as the big wooden doors of yesteryear - most of them about 17 feet high by 12 feet wide - but instead of functionality the main purpose now is attractability. “We wanted to get light in there and dramatically change the look and feel of the building,” said Steve Engel, whose Griffis/ Blessing development company has been working on the site since early December and hopes to open for business in May.
       Nevertheless, the edifice's history has not been overlooked. “We wanted to make the windows architecturally consistent with the type and age of the building,” he added. “I do think they look great.”

Glass installer George Suprenant prepares one of the two “flattop” openings (as workers have nicknamed them) for a window as a project to transform the old roundhouse into a commercial center continues. Next to them are the “roundtop” openings, while on the 21st Street side are those with tops that are less curved but not flat (dubbed “eyebrows”). In the railroad days, they were door openings used by train engines.
Westside Pioneer photo


How the Midland roundhouse looked during the railroad days
Courtesy of Mel McFarland

       Located at what is now Highway 24 and 21st Street, the roundhouse was used for engine repair and servicing by the Colorado Midland and later the Midland Terminal railroad from 1887 to 1949. From the 1950s until December, it was home for Van Briggle Pottery, which pulled out the old doors to create open-air hallways in front of new external walls that Van Briggle built behind them. Griffis/Blessing has since removed all that.
       The roundhouse was orignally built with three basic types of door-size openings, going by the modern nicknames of “roundtop,” “eyebrow” or “flattop,” based on their shapes, according to Whitaker and George Suprenant, the window-installation lead for subcontractor City Glass.
       Whitaker, who designed the windows, said he used a clear, energy-efficient glass (about an inch thick - two quarter-inch panes with a half-inch between them) sectioned with dark brown aluminum to contrast with the tan sandstone exterior. Called a “curtain wall system,” he described it as “a little beefier” than the type typically used in storefronts.
       To ease replacement and flexibility - allowing an opening to change from a window to a double-door, depending on future tenant needs - the glass is sectionalized.
       Where possible, the windows are recessed to show off the original doorway stone work, Whitaker pointed out.
       Counting all four sides of the curved building, there are more than 30 train-door openings. All but one are becoming windows (at least for now). That one, at the southwest end, will be a glass overhead door next to an outdoor employee break area for Carmichael Training Systems, a personal fitness company that is renting that end of the building.
       Two walk-through doors, part of the original construction, will also have the glass effect.
       Whitaker and Matt Hoodenpyle, the project supervisor, were both impressed with how close in size the door openings are to one another- nearly all within one inch or less - even though the work was done by construction workers and stone masons at a time before power tools and motorized equipment. As a result, Whitaker needed to come up with only one basic window design/size for each of the three opening types (roundtop, flattop and eyebrow), with caulk making up the difference.
       “For the 1880s, it was very accurate,” Hoodenpyle said. Added Suprenant, “As old as it is, I'm surprised how good a job they did.”
       Carmichael will be renting about a third of the 10,000 square feet inside the roundhouse. Its space is being expanded with a mezzanine that's being built. There is space for it because of the building's high ceilings. A previous mezzanine, added after the original construction, proved to be too unstable to keep, Whitaker said. As for the 1887 structure, “it's a stout building,” he said.
       Carmichael is the only contracted tenant so far; however, Whitaker said negotiations are ongoing with others. One apparent certainty is that a restaurant will be signed on for the northeast end of the building. An outdoor deck for diners, with a view of Pikes Peak and the highway, is already being planned, Whitaker explained.

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