Before Woodland Park was a four-lane road dominated by Subarus, easy travel to the mountains happened by train. While it’s hard to imagine a time period so little photographed and without the technology we have today, one can picture locomotives powering their way through steep mountain terrain carrying passengers and goods to thriving communities during the 1890s Gold Rush.
Along Highway 24 in the Woodland Park business district on Midland Avenue, there’s an old windmill that appears quite out of place. While you would normally find such artifacts sitting idly in the middle of meadows in Nebraska or Kansas, this windmill is cozied up next to a blue building with a blue roof known as the Donut Mill.
Walking in, the building is like any other normal mom-and-pop shop staking their claim in a corporate world. There are cases of fresh-made donuts behind clear glass enclosures, the strong smell of coffee, and a young, cheery woman at the register helping customers get their fix. The most noticeable item is their 3-pound cinnamon roll priced at $6.75 and enough to feed a whole family.
To the right is a small room with heavily painted brown wooden chairs with blue vinyl cushions tucked beneath worn wooden tables. In the early morning, the small room is flooded with a warm white light, the lace white curtains that hang in the windows adding a brightness to the room. It’s a sweet, cozy corner for anyone to enjoy freshly baked pastries and hot coffee.
Chalkboards with other menu items like biscuits and gravy, burritos, milkshakes, and ice cream printed in colorful writing hang close to the ceiling. On the wall behind the young woman at the counter are trays of fresh donuts generously coated with frosting and sprinkles.
Railroad memorabilia decorates the interior walls, suggesting this building that is now a simple donut shop holds more secrets than we could imagine. In the back room used for overflow when travelers are abundant, maps of the U.S. and the world fill the walls to the edges – featuring push pins of places people who visit the shop come from.
On the wall just to the left of the front door, there is a fading picture of a family known as the Webbs, who lived in the building for several decades. What now houses the aromas of coffee and donut batter once housed John Webb, his wife Annie, and their five children. Even in a space this small, it’s hard to fathom a family of seven lived here comfortably. Mr. Webb for many years, was the train depot agent or station master for the Colorado Midland Railway and the Midland Terminal Railway.
In the early 1900s, the station masters were responsible for making sure the train stations functioned efficiently. Their daily life consisted of conversing with travelers passing through and managing other staff members employed by the railways.
The Midland Terminal Railway opened in 1984 to provide passenger and freight services to Cripple Creek and Victor during the 1980s Gold Rush. It helped connect the Colorado Midland Railway to Cripple Creek, Victor, Goldfield, and other towns in the district. In 1943, the Midland Terminal Railway closed its doors to passengers traveling to the “World’s Greatest Gold Camp.” Up until then, trains often traveled through where Mr. Webb formerly lived at the now donut shop.
The original Donut Mill building was constructed in 1896, but Webb purchased the building in 1911, and lived there for many years with Annie and his five children. In the time between after it was the Webb family home and before it was the Donut Mill, the building was a real estate office and a craft store. According to the current owner Michael Sturdevant, the last remaining member of the Webb family had lived in Woodland Park until she passed away a few years ago.
In 1977, the building was purchased by the Bob and Marcia Kinners who were desperate to generate some family income and took road trips to other Colorado mountain towns looking for opportunity. On their way back to Colorado Springs, they stopped in Woodland Park to explore buildings for sale to start a business. Bob, Marcia, and their three children happened upon the building now known as the Donut Mill and thus started their legacy.
So why name it the Donut Mill? Mr. Kinner had a love of windmills and even tried his luck at purchasing one in Nebraska from a farmer who refused to sell. Kinner desired to own a windmill to bring out the Dutch influence he was working to incorporate in his donut making business. As luck would have it, Kinner came upon another opportunity to purchase a windmill from a farmer in Divide and bought it without hesitation. He hired someone to put it together and made it part of the Donut Mill that exists today. The iconic structure has been there ever since and is very much a part of Woodland Park’s community heritage.
Over the next 25 years, the Kinners ran the Donut Mill handcrafting their donut and gravy recipes from scratch. Those same recipes live on in the Donut Mill today.
From 2002 to 2009, the Donut Mill experienced great changes. It was owned by two different sets of owners before it’s current ones acquired the property. In 2003, the building was victim to a fire. It would take another seven months after the devastation of that fire for the mill to open up for business again.
The Donut Mill was purchased in 2009 by Michael and Stacy Sturdevant, who still own it today. It is still very much an active part of the community as the Donut Mill everyone knows and loves dearly. Stacy and Michael (who was a chief baker on the RMS Queen Mary) are proud of the Donut Mill and its history. They work to the best of their abilities to preserve it daily form the memorabilia lining the walls down to the super secret gravy recipe they use for their signature biscuits and gravy dish. The Donut Mill is difficult to miss if you’re ever passing through to visit Cripple Creek or Victor. Just look for the silver windmill.