A Taste of the Past

Transportation history of Sheridan, Colorado

Written by Bonita Hutcheson and edited by Thea Hutcheson
for "Sheridan Celebrates" in 1991.

December 7, 1859 saw the advent of a toll road, authorized by the General Assembly of Jefferson Territory, which also established toll fees "for each wagon, two horses, mules or oxen, twenty-five cents; every horse, with or without rider, ten cents; for every head of cattle, five cents; footman free."

Developed by Denver, Auraria and South Park Wagon Road Company and called the Bradford Toll Road, it ran from Denver-Auraria along the east side of the Platte across Brown's Bridge over the Platte at about present-day Union Avenue, through the town of Bradford (Ken-Caryl Ranch area) to South Park to the Arkansas Mines. It became the route of one of the earliest stage coach routes to South Park.

The area grew rapidly after those first hard years. Technology pushed its way west. The railroad played a major role in opening the great frontier to easier exploration, exploitation and settlement.

Denver & Rio Grande

The Denver & Rio Grande narrow gauge from Denver to Colorado Springs was completed on October 21, 1871. It was the fifth railroad completed in Colorado and ran along the west side of the Platte River. The easy access to this land south of Denver made settlement and development more attractive. On September 13, 1873, Peter Magnes filed the first plat in the area for a settlement called Petersburg.

On June 18, 1874 the Denver, South Park and Pacific narrow gauge between Denver and Morrison, via Bear Creek Junction (later Sheridan Junction) was completed marking the opening of a new route to South Park and making the future town of Sheridan possible by creating a stop that would be important as a junction for all the surrounding communities and Fort Logan .

Petersburg became a stopping place for wagons because it was perfectly situated just off the Bradford toll road. In 1879 The Petersburg Hotel was built near the corner of what is now Hampden and Santa Fe. The hotel served as a focal point of community activity, boasting 8 blacksmiths, 14 saloons, 1 newspaper and 3 stores in the immediate vicinity.

Also in 1879, The Denver & South Park Stage Company advertised a "Daily Line of Four and Six Horse Concord Coaches connecting with Denver and Morrison, leaves the foot of Larimer street daily at 7 a.m. and connects with coach at Morrison at 8:10 a.m., through to Fairplay in ONE DAY".

The Wayside Inn

The Wayside Inn was about four buildings south of the Petersburg Hotel and developed a reputation for vice. The inn boasted a drop wall where the gambling equipment and wealthy patrons could hide and find access to a pair of tunnels which led west of the Platte River (where small boats were supposedly moored for a quick escape). The existence of these tunnels was known by modern local residents for several years, but until 1959 when the Highway department bought pieces of real estate and began construction to widen and reroute Hampden Ave. (U. S. 285) its exact whereabouts remained unknown by most. (see page 14 of 1990's program book for additional information)

The Atcheson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad built north to Denver, May 1882. Main Street in Petersburg then became Santa Fe Drive, named for the railroad. A third standard rail was laid by Denver & Rio Grande along the Atcheson, Topeka and Santa Fe lines.

The Citizens of Denver and surrounding communities made several requests of the Army to establish a military post in the area for their protection during the early years of Denver. In 1883 it was agreed by General Sherman and his successor, General Phil Sheridan, that the exigencies of travel necessitating a string of "small posts along wagon and stage routes of travel" had been rendered unnecessary by the advent of the railroad. It was recommended that forts be located near cities. In May 1886 Senator Teller introduced a bill to authorize a post and appropriated $250,000.00 to build it. The bill was signed by President Cleveland February 17, 1887.

General Sheridan arrived in the Denver area on March 20, 1887 and reviewed eleven sites in four days. He chose the area known as the "Johnson Tract," abut eight miles south of the city of Denver because of its water supply, the proximity of the Morrison branch of the Denver, South Park and Pacific railroad, available space for a parade ground, artesian well possibilities, the beautiful view and the distance from Denver and its saloons. The first soldiers arrived in a snow storm on October 22, 1887 and camped to the north of the fort grounds, having missed the site by some distance.

Isaac McBroom filed a plat called Sheridan on November 16, 1887, a six block parcel just outside the gates of the new military camp (see page 15 of 1990's program book for additional information) bounded on the north by the Denver, South Park and Pacific narrow gauge railroad. The station was at approximately at Kenyon on the east side of Lowell.

Other developers jumped on the bandwagon and on February 1, 1888, Peter McCourt (half brother of Baby Doe Tabor) filed Sheridan filing 2, along with Thomas L. Wiswall and G. Oskar Scott. This group then filed Sheridan Subdivision on March 1, 1888. These tracts were along the Platte River, but north of Petersburg. Town of Sheridan (subdivision) was recorded April 13, 1888 by L. D. Stocking and George Timmerman. This tract was adjacent to Sheridan Junction, formerly known as Bear Creek Junction. The growing population of the communities spurred the construction of an addition to the Petersburg Hotel in 1889.

Construction of the military post was begun in July 1888 and completed in 1894, prompting Isaac McBroom to record 1st Addition to Sheridan on April 12, 1889 which adjoined his first plat and was known as Logantown by the citizens.

Denver, Clear Creek & Western

Denver, Clear Creek & Western railroad, a subsidiary of Denver and Rio Grande, completed the Fort Logan Branch from Military Junction (Santa Fe and Oxford) to Fort Logan June 27, 1889 and merged into Denver and Rio Grande August 12, 1889.

Peter Magnes, Peter McCourt and Jacob Puff petitioned for incorporation of the Town of Sheridan, January 14, 1890, the election was held February 18, 1890 and the incorporation, which included the area called Petersburg and Logantown, was approved by the Court on April 14, 1890.

In 1890 Denver, South Park and Pacific railroad laid tracks on the west side of the Platte through Bailey to South Park.

Fort Logan Homes plat was recorded on February 27, 1891, (at the northeast corner of Federal and Oxford), and probably was served by the Fort Logan branch of the Denver, Clear Creek and Western railroad.

The Fort Logan Street Railway was initiated in 1898 by the Rev. Thomas Malone. This ran from Broadway in Orchard Place (Englewood) to serve Loretto Heights Academy and Fort Logan. Riders had to get off and cross the railroad tracks on foot because the carriage could not get over the tracks. Once across the tracks, commuters boarded another carriage, the driver rehitched the horse to the new carriage and they continued on their way.

George Lechner bought The Petersburg Hotel in 1929 and added a filling station. Bicycling from Denver became the rage and a cool drink on the porch or the parlor of the hotel was a welcome respite after the long journey.

Automobiles required the development of adequate roadways, and the citizens clamored for public transportation. Oxford and Hampden, formerly Sheridan Ave., were paved with concrete, an unheard of concept, by the military in 1931. A private bus company was formed, connecting both the cities of Littleton and Englewood.

Except for the tracks along Santa Fe Drive, major transportation route for freight trains, most of the railroad tracks and their attendant stations have been abandoned and are gone. Renovation is in the works for the Englewood station, however, which remains in Sheridan's City limits, being situated on the east side of the tracks, just south of U.S. 285.

[Note: The station has since been moved to the corner of west Dartmouth avenue and south Galapago street.]

Sheridan boasts major transportation routes; U.S. 285, known as Hampden Ave.; State Highway 85, Santa Fe Drive; Highway 88, Federal Blvd. All of these roads provide major accesses from the Denver metro area, in all directions and is still an important juncture for travel and commerce.

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