Sante Fe Railroad Station          

 

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The Santa Fe Railroad Station in Brownwood, Texas, is located on the block bounded by Washington Avenue on the north, Adams Street on the east, the Santa Fe main line on the south, and Depot Street on the west. The facility comprises two separate buildings which are joined by a covered loggia. The Harvey House Restaurant and Hotel was built in 1911 at the east end of the property in the Prairie style. The passenger station at the west end of the property was built in 1909, also in the Prairie style. The two buildings complement each other and form an interesting facility.

The brown bricks which serve as the structural system as well as the facade composition were brought from Coffeeville, Kansas. Typical Prairie style motifs in the form of horizontal bands of bricks, trackside canopies, wide eaves with supporting brackets, hipped roofs of Spanish tiles, and windows of low and wide proportions grace the facades of both buildings.

The Harvey House building is rectangular in plan with dining rooms on the first floor and hotel rooms on the second floor. The dining rooms consist of a coffee shop, a restaurant, extensive kitchen facilities, and a tea room. Most notable of these rooms is the tea room with its Prairie style stenciling on the walls and ceiling. The room is located on the east end of the building with large windows and doors on three sides, thereby giving the room a light effect. Door and window frames, wainscoting, and plate rails are constructed of English oak.

The passenger station is a symmetrical building, rectangular in plan, with a two-story telegrapher's tower in the center. An interesting motif is the use of Romanesque arches for all exterior openings. Particularly fine detailing is found in the brick arch of the telegrapher's tower. The interior is divided into three large sections as is clearly defined in the exterior configuration. The waiting room, on the east end, is a large space measuring approximately thirty by sixty feet with a ceiling height of sixteen feet. A horizontal band of English oak divides the walls in equal sections, thereby separating the brick surface on the lower portion from the plaster above. A heavy plaster cornice of many planes graces the ceiling of this room. The central space in the two-story tower houses the telegrapher's bay, the ticket counter, and the rest rooms with offices on the second floor. The west end of the building houses the baggage room, the Railway Express Agency, and colored waiting room in three bays of equal size.

Exterior landscaping on the east end of the building consisted of a fenced flower garden with trees and shrubbery. All walkways and streetpaving are covered with Coffeeville bricks which complement the exterior composition.

The Santa Fe Railroad Passenger Station in Brownwood Texas, is one of the few large depots remaining intact in the state. Built at a time when rail travel was at its peak in the Southwest, the station represents an outstanding example of the Prairie style from the first decade of the twentieth century. Despite its present deteriorated condition, the building represents excellent adaptive use potential which could alleviate a socially declining neighborhood as well as restore a vital link with the Santa Fe Railroad's illustrious past in Brownwood.

The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad initiated passenger service to Brownwood on December 31, 1885. Crowds lined the tracks as engine No. 27 pulled a string of wooden coaches into town. This historic event put an end to the dependence of the community on horse, mule, and ox-drawn wagon trains for supplies.

The first depot was built in 1885 on a site directly opposite the present station. This building burned on November 23, 1892 and was replaced with a wooden freight station, which was transported on ten flat cars from Paris, Texas. The freight station remained on the site of the original station until 1909 when it: was moved two blocks to the east to make room for the new facility.

The present station was completed in 1909 to meet the demands of a growing passenger business in Brownwood. Selected from several designs submitted by the architectural department of the Santa Fe Railroad, the structure represents an outstanding example of the Prairie style in Texas. Original design proposals are filed in the Santa Fe headquarters office in Chicago.

In the pre-dining car era of railroad passenger travel, patrons depended on restaurants near the station for meals. The first restaurant across from the station was built in 1885 with the advent of passenger service in Brownwood. This popular establishment was operated by Mrs. Bertha McDermott until a new facility was added to the station in 1911. The Santa Fe Railroad signed a contract with the Fred Harvey restaurant chain from California that year and the Harvey House Restaurant and Hotel was built to the east of the passenger station and connected with the station by a covered loggia.

With the technical advancement of railroad passenger equipment in the 1920's, dining cars operated by Fred Harvey and plush Pullman cars were added to the rosters of most trains which traveled through Brownwood. As a result of such luxury accommodations, the patronage at the Harvey House declined. As was experienced by all American railroads during World War II, passenger traffic reached an all-time peak and the public facilities were taxed to their limits. With the end of the war came a greater slump in traffic and the Harvey House closed its doors.

In the great years of railroad travel, Brownwood was serviced by fifteen passenger trains a day. Among the more notable trains were the "Antelope" from Kansas City to Brownwood; the "California Special" from Los Angeles to Dallas; the "Navajo" from Los Angeles to Houston; and the "Texan" from Clovis, New Mexico to Temple. Activity at the station continued through the 1960's with four trains a day as late as 1964 and occasional special trains such as the twenty-car "Football Special" which ran to Cleburne on September 21, 1962 for the opening high school game of the season. But passenger service dwindled to one train a day and the last passenger train through Brownwood left the station on July 21, 1968.

The facility at Washington Avenue and Adams Street continued as a Santa Fe freight office until August 19, 1974, when the offices were moved to Coggin Avenue. At the present time, the buildings are unoccupied and have been boarded-up to prevent further vandalism. The Brownwood Civic Theatre, Inc., is negotiating with the Santa Fe Railroad for purchase of the building. The station would adapt very well to the needs of the organization with the audience accommodation in the waiting room, the stage in the telegrapher's tower, and the backstage facilities in the baggage room. -National Register Listing.