Building History

The Depot Theater is located in the original El Vaquero Harvey House and Depot, a red brick building that was built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style in 1898 by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. Occupying almost two blocks, the Depot originally included a train passenger depot and railroad offices, as well as a hotel and eating house run by Fred Harvey. But as railroad traffic declined with the rise of airlines and automobiles in the 20th century, many Harvey Houses were shuttered–including El Vaquero, which closed in 1948. While some spaces in the building continued to be used as railroad offices, others were boarded up with the original furnishings and fixtures left in place.

In 1996, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad donated the Depot building to Dodge City government. Years of grant writing and research culminated in an eight-year plan to restore the Depot as the home of a new state-of-the-art dinner theater for the Boot Hill Museum Repertory Company. In the meantime, a mid-century addition to the Depot’s east side, which had been the Elks Lodge, was transformed into the Homestead Theater and the repertory company’s temporary home later that year. The west half of the building, which was originally constructed as a dormitory for the “Harvey Girls” who worked in the Harvey Restaurant and Hotel, was turned into a storage space for the company’s props and costumes. 

In July of 2004, after eight years of restoration and construction, the company moved into its new permanent home—the Depot Theater main stage, a fully-equipped dinner theater that could seat up to 160 guests. The first production in the new space was Stephen Sondheim’s Anyone Can Whistle. Today, the company if a 501©3 non-profit, renamed Depot Theater, Inc., providing Broadway-style dinner theater to audiences across the state and the Depot Theater building is the largest train depot still standing in the state of Kansas.