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The 105th Meridian at Denver Union Station

Back in 2010, I was on Google Earth one day wandering over the planet’s surface—a surefire way for many hours to slip by for geography geeks like me—and had the latitude/longitude grid turned on and noticed that the 105th Meridian West cuts directly through Denver Union Station. In fact, it pretty much runs right through the dead center of the station’s front facade. At that time, my fellow Union Station Advocates board members and I were focused on the preliminary designs for Wynkoop Plaza and so I suggested that we should advocate for a public art project that embeds a line marking the path of the meridian across the plaza. Everyone thought it was a cool concept, but it was too early in the plaza design process and we didn’t get much traction on it, so we let the idea go for the time being.

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The 105th Meridian West cuts across Wynkoop Plaza and Denver Union Station.

Fast forward to spring 2014 and Wynkoop Plaza was nearing its July opening and work was well underway on the plaza’s granite pavers and other features. I reintroduced the idea of the 105th Meridian project to my Union Station Advocates colleagues and this time everything fell into place. After some negotiating with the Union Station project team, the concept was approved. Union Station Advocates kicked in most of the funds for the project, with the Denver Union Station Project Authority (DUSPA) covering the balance. Key to the project’s speedy approval was my friend and fellow Union Station Advocates board member Dana Crawford. If you want to get something done, your odds of success are greatly improved if Dana is part of the effort! Bill Mosher from DUSPA and our Union Station Advocates chair Anne Hayes were also very instrumental in making the 105th Meridian project happen.

Over one weekend in October 2014, workers embedded a 1-inch-wide stainless steel strip into the granite pavers. My crazy idea from 2010 had become a reality!

The 105th Meridian West at Denver Union Station is marked by a 1-inch-wide stainless steel strip embedded in Wynkoop Plaza’s granite pavers.

The next issue to work on was the interpretive sign. Virtually no one would know what the line in the plaza represents unless we had some type of sign or marker explaining the situation. After several months of contemplating where the sign should go, what it should look like, how big it should be, etc., we finally settled on a sign to be mounted inside the south entry lobby of the historic station a few steps from where the line crosses in the plaza. I then did a bunch of research, learning more about meridians and time zones than I ever thought I’d know, and wrote the text and developed the graphics for the interpretive sign. My friends and fellow blog contributors Ryan Dravitz and Derek Berardi helped out. Ryan provided the photo and Derek did the graphic design and layout for the sign. Dana Crawford and her team that manage the historic station paid for the interpretive sign and its installation.

The sign was installed in late November.

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Grant Adams (left) and Xavian Lahey (right) from Nine dot Arts help JDP from JDP Art (center) install the 105th Meridian sign inside Denver Union Station.



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Almost finished…



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Done!

The 105th Meridian West may not be as famous as the Prime Meridian at Greenwich or the Four Corners when it comes to imaginary lines you can visit, but it is a fun curiosity and interesting part of Union Station’s history. I hope next time you’re at Denver Union Station you’ll check it out! Here’s a PDF of the interpretive sign if you aren’t able to make it to Union Station to see it in person. The sign includes a full list of people and firms who helped make the project possible. Thank you to all who had a part in the process!

Happy New Year, Denver!

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9 Comments

  1. Mark Barnhouse says:

    Ken, this is brilliant. It’s the kind of thing that adds richness to the city experience. Denver is lucky to have you as a citizen. And kudos too to Ryan, Derek, Dana, and everyone else that helped bring this about.

  2. Chris says:

    This is the best! As many times as I walk through Union Station and nerding out to friends that visit Denver this goes to show that I am not on my game in noticing these unique features.

  3. Claude says:

    Excellent. True dedication to an idea. I’ve seen that line riding around on my bike, never knew the history. Too cool!

  4. Chad Reischl says:

    Great job! Love the concept and the educational component. I hope lots of people check it out.

    • Nash says:

      Awesome, Ken! Last year you showed a bunch of us the stainless steel strip on one of your great walking tours of LoDo and Union Station. Now we know exactly where we’re standing on our planet. Fun!

  5. […] Ever Wonder About That Metal Strip Embedded in Front of Union Station? (DenverUrbanism) […]

  6. Shannon G Bowers says:

    I think this is just wonderful. I noticed the sign during a visit just last week and have brought it to quite a few folks’ attention. Funky and fun information like this adds even more depth to the Union Station project(and it’s entertaining!)

    Thank you.

  7. sporobolus says:

    so, ignoring the arbitrariness of time zones, by the sun Denver is exactly 7 hours earlier than Greenwich

    (btw, “95” on the diagram should be 90)

    • Ted says:

      I was going to add this too – Ken didn’t mention the time zone matter in this post, though that interpretive sign he linked to talks about it. This is an extra fun coincidence, because it was actually train travel that caused us to adopt standard time zones in the first place.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_zone#Railway_time

      Time was originally kept using the local solar time, but standard time zones were later adopted to make railroad scheduling easier. The fun thing is that, at Union Station, the local solar time IS the correct MST time (with the exception of a one-hour switch during DST). A sundial located right on the meridian would have been a fitting installation as well. But I also love Ken’s solution and initiative to get this done!