All good mysteries require a crime, a culprit, and a savvy sleuth to connect the two. Creede, a former mining town at the mouth of Willow Creek Canyon in the silvery San Juans, never lacked for any of these ingredients. Bob Ford, the supposed killer of Jesse James, operated a dance hall there at one time, while Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith swindled ne'er-do-wells at his own gambling hall down the road. Famed Dodge City sheriff Bat Masterson managed another saloon and reportedly instilled a little law and order in the town through his hard-won reputation alone. These men, along with the town's other notable and nefarious characters, could populate a dozen or more crime novels. Yet their dramatic stories, told and retold by historians for more than a century now, lack mystery. But connoisseurs of historical conundrums need not lament. The Creede Historical Society, while preserving the town's Denver & Rio Grande Railway depot with assistance from the State Historical Fund, discovered an architectural puzzle that will satiate any mystery lover's appetite. Although the depot's story lacks a crime, it includes all the other elements of a great mystery.
The story began in 1999 when the Creede Historical Society received a State Historical Fund grant to assess the depot's worsening structural problems. During the assessment, project participants discovered archival and physical evidence that filled several gaps in the depot's construction history.
Creede's historians already knew that the Denver & Rio Grande Railway built the depot in 1893. The town newspaper, The Creede Candle, documented the construction of a "large and roomy structure, in keeping with the immense amount of business transacted at this station." However, historians did not know when workers constructed the building's defining element, a distinctive cross-gable roof. The original blueprints, dated November 11, 1892, depict a simple side-gable structure, with only a hint of a cross gable shown in light construction lines. Another set of blueprints, this time dated "1/19/3," clearly show the cross gable. This evidence suggests that workers constructed the original side-gable structure in 1893 and added the cross gable ten years later.
Proving the historian's adage that information can be considered factual only if it is confirmed by separate and reliable sources, the project's partners disproved the theory that the cross gable was built a decade afte