What do you get when you cross a freight depot from the 1880s situated at an altitude of over 10,000 feet with two of the country’s top Historical Preservation architects and the industry’s best high bay LED fixtures? An awesome repurposed space that honors the past while offering plenty of fun in the present.
One wintry day a couple of years ago, Nan and Dave Anderson, co-founders and principals of nationally renowned Anderson Hallas Architects, were out for a walk with their grandkids in the once-famous mining town of Leadville, Colorado.
“There, on the side of the road, buried in about eight feet of snow,” Nan recalled, “was this very cool old freight depot alongside the railroad tracks that was totally vacant. We looked at it and said, ‘That’s a building that we have to have.’ We had no idea why we had to have it. We climbed over the fence, we peeked in the windows, and we fell in love with it. The rest is history.”
That history culminated in the opening of FREIGHT, Leadville’s leading community and events center. It’s a marvelous old building—originally built around 1884—surrounded in all directions by the majesty of many of Colorado’s most famous “14er” peaks (mountains with summits above 14,000 feet). Mining may not be booming there anymore, but FREIGHT has found new life while still honoring its rich history.
“This was the freight depot for one of the railroads that served all the mines in the area,” Dave explained. “So basically, much of the ore that came out of the mines would ship through this building and get transferred to the trains that would take it out of town. But many of the sundries that came into town to support the mining effort came through this building as well. Everything from cloth to fresh vegetables to hardware to anything needed to keep a town of miners going throughout the year came through this building, in one side and out the other.”
Nan elaborated: “The building has both historic graffiti and what we call ‘scraffiti,’ when people carve their names into the wood. When we first started exploring FREIGHT, we noticed that there was some beautiful calligraphied graffiti that we knew was historic. There were also dates associated with some of the graffiti, so we could date the building to October 1, 1884. When we started to discover that this told so much of the FREIGHT story, we said, ‘We have to find a way to preserve this.’”
The Andersons also found a number of fascinating artifacts, ranging from beer cans and liquor bottles to engineer’s coats and Masonic documents dated from well over 100 years ago. FREIGHT’s conference room is like a small museum of artifacts found onsite. But at the time, they had to determine what they were going to do with the old depot.
“FREIGHT’s really a community gathering place,” Nan explained. “We call it ‘The Yes Place’ because anyone with a crazy idea is welcome at FREIGHT. We’ve done quinceañeras, fly-tying classes, Zumba classes, affordable housing seminars, political debates, weddings, funeral services, and we just recently hosted the Mountain Film Festival. You name it, we do it at FREIGHT, because we are The Yes Place.”
To transform this abandoned, 130-year-old building into a fun, vibrant events center that still honored its history, great lighting—employed in a creative way—would be essential.
“When we first entered the building, it was very dark,” Nan recalled. “All of the surfaces were dark wood, aged with 130 years of dust and dirt. We knew we were going to have to find a light that would really explode the space, because without it, it’s just going to be kind of dark and spooky. When Greg Fisher [from Current’s Colorado sales rep, Fisher Lighting & Controls came to us, he said, ‘Let’s try this wonderful uplight by Current—the Albeo.’ When we put it into the mockup and turned that light on, the entire space just came to life. For the first time ever, we could actually appreciate the entire volume of the space as the ceiling lit up. The uplight really brings the space to life.”
FREIGHT is a highly volumetric space with a high, sloped ceiling. Downlights alone weren’t going to be enough to illuminate the space. Fortunately, the Albeo works great as either a downlight or an uplight, providing plentiful, beautiful light wherever it’s needed. The Andersons wanted to utilize the lighting in both directions while creating something unique and creative, so they hired Lynn Redding Lighting Design to design a custom chandelier fixture with an industrial feel centered around a pair of Albeos—one used as an uplight, one as a downlight. And with the Albeo’s incredible versatility, it worked like a charm.
“We were looking for a way to actually show just exactly how incredible this space was,” Dave explained. “We needed a way to light a very dark space and frankly, one of the challenges we had was: How do we get light up to show how much texture and incredible history there was, just in the ceiling itself? It’s a very dark ceiling, it’s all wood; there’s not much reflection coming off that ceiling structure. So when we talked to Greg Fisher, he helped us figure out how to get the real light we needed up into this space. We’d also been working with Lynn Redding Lighting Design to try to figure out the right type of feel we want for a fixture in here and we created some chandeliers to give it a quality of a public, but intimate space. The Albeo fixtures provided us the power we needed to get that light up into the ceiling and to give us a real sense of volume within that space. It was pretty cool to get those Albeos flaring up and getting the light throughout this high-volume ceiling, but also getting that same texture and quality of light down so you can actually see and read the graffiti that’s on these walls.”
But the Albeo didn’t just come through with its performance—Current’s lightning-fast shipping got them there right when they needed them.
Nan recalled: “Even though we never should have done this as developers, we set a goal for an opening date. And unfortunately, our first event was going to be a wedding on August 28. So we knew that we had to have lights in the space, or we were all going to be carrying flashlights around for that wedding. Luckily, the Albeo fixtures were almost instantaneously available. Now, that really helped the fact that on the custom fabrication end of the equation, we were a little bit behind schedule. So it was great that the fixture itself was there and ready to go.”
All of this added up to a tremendous experience with Current and its representatives for FREIGHT and the Andersons.
“Our experience with Current has just been really stellar,” Nan exuded. “They’re reliable, they deliver on time, the products are solid. We have had no defects whatsoever … it’s really extraordinary in our experience as architects.”
Dave was also very impressed: “We found that Current … was incredibly responsive in getting the kind of information we needed so that we could make a decision and then supplying exactly what we needed so that we could put it up and get a great feel for it. And working with Greg Fisher of Fisher Lighting & Controls allowed us to actually test things and use his expertise to come up with the right things to look at. Then he even showed up onsite to help us put things together and make sure it was all working just the way we needed it. It was a great experience.”
So what’s the takeaway?
“If you want to have an incomparable experience at 10,000 feet with a lot of fun people in a spectacularly sparkling space,” Nan said, “come to FREIGHT.”
And if you want to find the best lighting for your own project, reach out to Current.