Union Station shindig blows the roof off the depot

For a while last night during "A Night in Old Union Station," a swanky fundraising shindig that took over Denver's central depot, the grand old railroad station resembled what it must have been like during its heyday 80 years ago.

Roughly 850 people packed the station's elaborately decorated great hall and balconies, surely the largest number who've congregated there for quite some time. Ladies in flapper dresses danced the jitterbug as men in period hats navigated penny-farthing bicycles through the crowds. Mayor John Hickenlooper gave a speech, as well as prominent figures like hotel magnate Walter Isenberg and everybody's favorite real estate mogul, Evan Makovsky.

Folks dined from an always-full raw bar while filmmakers unveiled a trailer for Denver Union Station: Portal to Progress, a new documentary coming out this February. In the basement,the model trains were chugging at full speed -- though there were some big-boy train toys around, too. Out on the tracks, guests could quaff drinks in two of Philip Anschutz's personal train cars.

It was all to raise money to build a replica of the Mizpah Arch, the 65-foot-high, iconic gateway that once welcomed people arriving to Denver from the station. Since the rebuilding of the arch wasn't funded as part of the ambitious rehabilitation of Union Station into a modern transit hub, the civic group Union Station Advocates decided to take it upon themselves to do so -- and with tickets to the party last night going for $40 to $200, they seemed to get a long way towards their goal.

Much of the credit goes to Advocates co-chair Dana Crawford, the celebrated civic booster who helped revitalize LoDo. Crawford had the idea for the fundraiser more than a year ago, and most people likely thought the ambitious party would be impossible to pull off. If so, these people clearly didn't know Crawford.

With all the energy and excitement packed into the great train hall last night, it wasn't too hard to imagine the station once again becoming a central gateway in a few years' time. And while many people want to see changes they'd like to see in the complicated plan to remake Union Station, it's good to see some of those folks -- Crawford and her colleagues -- willing to put their money where their mouths are.

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