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Yesterday at Railspot, Timothy Geeslin contributed this little bit of Fort Worth history that some of you may find interesting:
The Santa Fe Depot (also known as Union Passenger Station, Union Depot) constructed in 1899 was considered a monument to transportation progress in the Southwest. The latest architectural concepts were incorporated into the station’s design. Although the architect is not known, the contractors were David Smith and John Bardon, builders of Fort Worth’s first City Hall. The depot is a robust example of beaux-arts styling which originally included painted glass in the three upper story windows of the north wall depicting the evolution of transportation up to that time. The stained glass, painted by an unknown artist, reveal:
1. THE PRAIRIE SCHOONER or TICONDEROGA COVERED WAGON
2. THE PONY EXPRESS
3. THE IRON HORSE
The windows were removed on December 5, 1969 and donated to the Pate Museum of Transportation where they remained in storage until 2001. Smith Studios of Fort Worth restored the stained glass to their original glory and Fort Worth based Hull Historical Millwork reinstalled them on August 28, 2003 after a 34 year absence.
The Santa Fe Depot was the eventual result of Fort Worth beating Dallas to the punch. Early in 1880, the Santa Fe representative told Fort Worth civic leaders the railroad would build into Fort Worth or Dallas, choosing the city that signed a contract first giving the railroad the necessary right of way and a $75,000 bonus. John Peter Smith, Major K.M. Van Zandt and other civic leaders agreed to raise the money and the City of Fort Worth signed the contract first beating Dallas to the punch.
The depot was renovated in 1937-1938 as part of an extensive “improvements” project. According to a May 29, 1938 Fort Worth Star-Telegram article:
· “The main entrance has been modernized by removal of an old-fashioned portico and its replacement by a neat marquee. The interior has been redecorated and brought up to date. New furniture has been installed and such features as news stand, check stand and other facilities have been modernized and conveniently arranged.”
· “The station exit to trains has been changed to the right of the ticket windows. From this exit passengers may walk through a gate and directly to the two shorter tracks used by the Southern Pacific, or directly into the subway, which has been provided for passengers to reach trains of the Santa Fe and the Rock Island, which also uses the facilities of the station. This modern subway is entered and left by a moderately inclined ramp, while short flights of steps ascend from the tunnel to the platforms beside the tracks. Umbrella sheds protect all track platforms. One completely new umbrella shed has been constructed to serve the longer passenger trains.”
· “Just north of the passenger station is the new Santa Fe freight depot. A paved parking space, reached through a new north entrance to the passenger station, separates the two structures.”
· “Sixteen trains daily operate in and out of the station. The Santa Fe has eight trains, the Southern Pacific has four and the Rock Island operates four. The Santa Fe operates north to Chicago, west to California and south to Galveston. The Southern Pacific trains operate out of here to Houston and New Orleans. Rock Island trains run north to Kansas and Minnesota.”
The depot was scheduled for demolition in 1963 to make way for a parking lot. According to a July 18, 1963 Fort Worth Star-Telegram article:
· “A part of Fort Worth’s historic scene will die when the agreement to move the Santa Fe Depot passenger operations to the Texas & Pacific Passenger Station is effected.”
· “The old Santa Fe Depot at 14th and Jones will be torn down and all its passenger service will be made through the T&P to become Union Passenger Station.”
· “The structure was erected in 1899 and served also as a Union Station.”
Fortunately an agreement was never reached and the Santa Fe continued operations at the depot until Amtrak took over in 1971.
Over its life, the Santa Fe Depot has served the Frisco, Rock Island, Burlington, Cotton Belt, Southern Pacific, and Santa Fe railroads.
Indisputably one of Fort Worth’s most important historic buildings, the Santa Fe Depot has been a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark since 1970 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Santa Fe Depot turned 100 years old in 1999 and was the only passenger train station in Texas in continuous service for 100+ years until Amtrak moved to the Intermodal Transportation Center in 2002.
The Depot was owned by Fort Worth Union Passenger Station Company until 1960. Up to that time, it was jointly owned by Southern Pacific and the Santa Fe. Prior to Santa Fe/Burlington Northern merger, the Santa Fe spun off a number of real estate properties into Catellus Corporation. The Santa Fe Depot, the Freight House, South Warehouse and the station tracks were part of Catellus. I think Los Angeles Union Station and the surrounding land were (or still owned) by Catellus. In Fort Worth, they chose to sell the property to private individuals in 1998.
During the Battle of Fort Worth (1999-2001), I was involved in getting Transportation Enhancement funds for the Santa Fe Depot based on the premise that Amtrak remain at the Depot. In addition, I wrote the Amtrak track plans (an engineering firm put the plans on cad) most of elements you see today to allow Amtrak to operate over the TRE. Thirdly, we managed to maintain "rail" access to the Santa Fe Depot.
Fast forward to 2006....Amtrak moved to the ITC and still backs in/out of FTW. The Depot has been restored with private dollars (the enhancement funds were conditioned on Amtrak remaining at the Depot) and is no longer a public building. Now that the Depot is restored, perhaps a private rail car owner will make a call. Would be nice to see restored Santa Fe varnish parked at the Depot.
Now you all know the rest of the story