Thursday, April 9, 2020

On the Atchinson, Topeka, and the Santa Fe

By Tiffany Amber Stockton

Last month, I began a series highlighting Colorado Springs history. If you missed that post, you can read it here: Upon further reflection, I'll be expanding my focus on history throughout the state, not just one city, although Colorado Springs will be in the limelight more often than not. :)

This month, I'm going to shine the spotlight on the 10 stations in the state of Colorado which featured a Harvey House at their depots, and thereby also had Harvey Girls.


Ever since I read Tracie Peterson's Westward Chronicles trilogy with the heroines working as Harvey Girls, I've been fascinated by their stories and the rich history that has come with this small bit of America's western past. For many years, I got excited every time I found a story about a Harvey Girl or learned something about the restaurant chain that once existed. I always wanted to visit one, but none of them are open and active anymore.

However, many of them have been re-purposed into other useful buildings or businesses. Unfortunately, they were all along the train routes that ran from Kansas into Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.

Or, so I thought!

Imagine my surprise when I was driving downtown in Colorado Springs and saw an older building that didn't fit with the rest of the buildings around it. My curiosity piqued, I crossed the road and pulled into the parking lot to investigate. What I discovered both thrilled and surprised me.

Santa Fe Depot, Colorado Springs, CO
There was a Harvey House restaurant at that very spot! One problem, though. There wasn't any railroad, and the building was situated in the middle of dozens of other buildings in all directions. Well, since I rarely let historical gems like this get away without further research, I went home and did some research.

As it turns out, there WAS once a railroad station there, and the track ran right out front. At the time, that station (called the Santa Fe station, oddly enough) was the easternmost point of Colorado Springs. Years passed, and the city expanded. With that expansion came the shifting of the railroad route to another track, thereby ending the need for a restaurant at a station that had been shut down. Eventually, the station and buildings became offices and warehouses for storage, but I can just see that area during its heyday in my mind.

Santa Fe Depot, Trinidad, CO
I have started and sketched out a few stories where that station will be the focal point, but I also plan to feature the other locations throughout Colorado once I can sell at least 1 of the books set right here in my hometown. One story is about a secret admirer and involves a combination of a Harvey Girl and what *would* have been a Pony Express rider, only that service only lasted from 1860-1861. So, I changed it to a mail delivery stagecoach driver. *grins* My second story features the daughter of a prominent family who is tired of her life being scheduled, so she rebels and takes a job as a Harvey Girl to gain some independence. The work proves much harder than she anticipates, and she finds an ally in the chef, a man with a secret identity of his own.

That's Colorado Springs.

Here are the other locations throughout the state:
El Otero Hotel, La Junta, CO
  • Cascade (eventually moved to Woodland Park)
  • Idyllwild
  • Leadville
  • Hugo
  • La Junta
  • Pueblo
  • Trinidad
  • Palmer Lake
  • Colorado Springs

The restaurants or lunchrooms operated at train platforms or inside hotels starting in 1879, with the most active time from 1895-1920. The last Colorado Harvey House, El Otero Hotel in La Junta, closed in 1948.

If you want to read a great blog post briefly summarizing the Harvey House restaurants and their impact on American history, check out The Restless Native.


* Have you ever eaten at a Harvey House? If so, where?

* What little known gems exist where YOU live that many might not know exist?

* What did you like the most about today's post? What topics would you like to see covered in future posts?

Leave answers to these questions or any comments you have on the post below. Come back on the 9th of May for my next appearance.


Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood, when she was accused of having a very active imagination and cited with talking entirely too much. Today, she has honed those childhood skills to become an award-winning and best-selling author and speaker who is also an advocate for literacy as an educational consultant with Usborne Books. She loves to share life-changing products and ideas with others to help better their lives.

She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, along with their two children and two dogs in Colorado. She has sold twenty (23) books so far and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. You can find her on Facebook and GoodReads.


  1. Wonderful post! I discovered the Harvey Girls about ten years ago when we visited Arizona. I can't remember which town it was, but we ate in one of the restaurants. As a result of the visit, I read and researched quite a bit about these amazing ladies, and watched the Judy Garland film. Have you seen it? I ended up writing a novella featuring the Harvey Girls.

    1. Linda, I *have* seen the movie with Judy Garland...thus the title of my post. :) It's the award-winning song from that film. I love that you had the chance to eat in one of the restaurants, and that it piqued your interest enough to research and write a novella about them. Sure hope I can sell this potential series to the right publisher.

  2. I love that your inquiring mind made you stop and investigate the location!!! I hope that once I retire, something will pique my interest enough to actually learn about it. Maybe I'll be able to spark up some brain cells when I don't have to think about my job!!! Thanks for the post!

    1. Oh, I am right with you there, Connie. While I don't have a 9-5 job that occupies my mind every day, I do have school-age kiddos and taking care of my home in addition to running a business and working as a sub-contractor for the local school district. Oh, and let's not forget attempting to write books. Lol! My little forays and side research visits are minimal, but I love when they reveal little-known gems like this!

  3. I'm curious- if they all closed in 1948, when would we have eaten in one? I mean, I was born in 1951, which was a pretty long time ago. Also, do you know which was the easternmost Harvey House? I guess they were all in the west?

    1. Oh, only the ones in Colorado closed in 1948. There were still many of them throughout the other states that were active and thriving, and some that are still restaurants today. As for the easternmost Harvey House, I believe that was in Topeka, KS, since he began there and moved west all the way to southern California.