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When news of the gold that was discovered in the area now known as Cripple Creek and Victor spread like wildfire, people flocked to the area in record numbers. To accommodate these new arrivals and profit from the needs of the new arrivals, three railroads serviced the area. They were the Florence & Cripple Creek Railroad, the Colorado Springs & Cripple Creek Railroad, and the Midland Terminal Railroad from Divide.
Needing a terminal in Cripple Creek, the Midland Terminal Railroad built their Depot at the east end of Bennett Avenue. The first train arrived on December 18, 1895 at the Midland Terminal at the east end of Bennett Avenue.. The building was designed by an architect named Murphy.
The Midland operated 10 trains a day, some of which included a parlor car, with sleepers, champagne dinners for overnight excursions from Denver. The freight trains hauled lumber, explosives, machinery, fruit, groceries, dry goods, and luxuries for the needs of the community of new miners and businessmen. The building was built with every modern convenience of the day including being wired for electricity, phone service, and indoor plumbing.
The terminal is built on the side of a hill that accommodates the usage of the building. The 1st floor is for freight and the entrance for passengers who went directly upstairs. The 2nd floor is ticket sales, waiting rooms and train access. The waiting rooms were divided into two rooms: one for the men and one for the women and children. Tickets were purchased on the second floor at the Freight Office window. The 3rd floor was first offices and later the station master’s home.
There were three station managers that lived in the Depot with their families. The first was W.L. Trout Felter, who lived at the Depot in 1915-16. The second was John Evans, his wife Laura and their children from 1917 until 1942. Mrs. Evans tried to make the depot more homey by putting pieces of tissue paper on the transom to look like stained glass. The third station manager was Dudley Duncan from 1942 until 1950. The terminal closed in 1949 with the last train departing on February 6, 1949. The Duncan’s lived there for another year after the terminal closed.
Besides the station managers and their wives, the ticket and freight clerks, and other railroad workers, there was another person who spent time at the depot on a regular basis for many years, working for the Duncan’s as a housekeeper, and continued to work in the building in that capacity after the Duncan’s left and for several years after that. She was a small African-American woman, about five feet tall, with very short, close-cropped hair. Molly is the last regular employee in the building until it became a museum.
The terminal was empty for only 3 years when, in 1953, Blevins Davis who was a Broadway producer, asked his friend Richard “Dick” Johnson to find him a museum to own. That assignment brought Johnson to Cripple Creek and the Midland Depot. Davis purchased the museum and Johnson opened it in June 14, 1953. Dick was a very popular man in town, handsome, driving a late-model sports car, sporting a large ring and a gold tipped cane, dressing in expensive suits, and charming the wealthy widows of the town. Johnson is credited as being the museum’s founder and enjoyed life in Cripple Creek for many years in the 1950s.
The Cripple Creek District Museum is the cornerstone of the museum complex at the east end of Bennett Avenue, which includes the Assay Office, the Colorado Trading & Transfer Company and two cabins. One cabin belonged to Blanche LeCriox. The other cabin served as a home on West Masonic Avenue in Cripple Creek. Both cabins were purchased by the City in about 2005 and donated to the museum in 2009. The head-frame next to the museum is from the Pinnacle Mine. Some of the artifacts in the Museum are original to the Depot; other have been donated from area pioneer families.