LED lighting revitalizes historic Colorado depot into modern event center

Aug. 26, 2020
A unique back-to-back configuration of GE Current Albeo luminaires delivers uplight into a vast high ceiling and diffused downlight into a Rocky Mountain events center.

GE Current, a Daintree company has revealed a truly unique LED lighting project in the mountain mining town of Leadville, CO, working with Anderson Hallas Architects to convert an abandoned 1880s railroad freight depot into a modern events center. The venue called Freight features custom solid-state lighting (SSL) fixtures constructed using Current Albeo high-bay luminaires and other elements to deliver impactful and effective lighting.

Nan and Dave Anderson of Anderson Hallas Architects drove the project forward after discovering the abandoned building alongside railroad tracks during a visit to the once-vibrant mining town surrounded by Rocky Mountain peaks in the 14,000-ft range. “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.”

The building was somewhat able to tell its own story. There was something akin to historic graffiti on the wood. And Nan Anderson described the carving of names in wood as “scraffiti.” She said those carvings and other artifacts that remained in the building allowed them to date the building to at least 1884. So the mission was to preserve and still deliver a space with modern conveniences including lighting. Indeed, a conference room at Freight hosts many artifacts and Masonic documents, serving as something of a museum as well as a meeting space.

We’ve covered many SSL projects in retrofits of very old buildings in Europe. For instance, early on in the LED lighting revolution, we first wrote about an SSL project at Rome’s Sistine Chapel. We’ve covered numerous projects at UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Sites such as the Wartburg Castle in Germany. So often in the US, however, historic buildings with a story to tell are simply replaced. Freight’s history doesn’t stretch to the length of many of the European projects but is still significant at well over 100 years.

The Freight building did present a challenge with a lot of dark wood and the sheer volume of the space with extremely tall ceilings. Nan Anderson said, “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.” It was Greg Fisher, principal at Current Colorado sales representative Fisher Lighting Controls, who made the suggestion that the team utilize Albeo fixtures as uplights.

Albeo was once an independent lighting manufacturer focused on high-bay lighting for factories and industrial spaces in the early days of the LED transition. Such lighting applications were an apt target because the high light levels and long hours of utilization translated to very high energy usage. GE Lighting, long before the creation of Current, bought Albeo back in 2012. Still, the Albeo product line has remained primarily focused on high-output applications with the beam shining in a downward fashion. The team mocked up the uplight concept and Nan Anderson said, “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.”

Ultimately, the Andersons brought Lynn Redding Lighting Design into the project to utilize the Albeo luminaires to create a custom SSL fixture. It’s actually a tough element to describe, although the Andersons refer to it as a chandelier. Arguably, the designer created a custom luminaire (see closeup nearby). But the new fixture was based in part on an existing luminaire. The result is almost like a hero structure for the ceiling of the space with a number of the elements installed along the length of the building.

The chandeliers integrate a pair of Albeo luminaires suspended in a back-to-back fashion with one delivering the uplight into the vast ceiling and the other delivering downlight that comprises the primary ambient layer in the space. The design includes a diffuser on the downward-facing luminaire, additional structure for discrete spotlights, and a custom metal grate that primarily serves as a visual enhancement delivering an industrial feel. Looking at the photos from the project, it appears that the design also includes a square custom reflector mounted above the Albeo uplight to better spread the beam.

The Andersons feel that the end result perfectly evokes what is both a public yet intimate space. The first event at Freight was a wedding, after all. And the lighting enables guests to examine the graffiti and scraffiti in a very comfortable space where mining history lurks.

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About the Author

Maury Wright | Editor in Chief

Maury Wright is an electronics engineer turned technology journalist, who has focused specifically on the LED & Lighting industry for the past decade. Wright first wrote for LEDs Magazine as a contractor in 2010, and took over as Editor-in-Chief in 2012. He has broad experience in technology areas ranging from microprocessors to digital media to wireless networks that he gained over 30 years in the trade press. Wright has experience running global editorial operations, such as during his tenure as worldwide editorial director of EDN Magazine, and has been instrumental in launching publication websites going back to the earliest days of the Internet. Wright has won numerous industry awards, including multiple ASBPE national awards for B2B journalism excellence, and has received finalist recognition for LEDs Magazine in the FOLIO Eddie Awards. He received a BS in electrical engineering from Auburn University.