The Texas & Pacific Railway Depot
800 N. Washington St .
Marshall , TX 75670
903-938-9495 or (toll free) 1-800-513-9495
Open 10:00 to 4:00 , Tuesday through Saturday. Other times available by request for parties of 12 or more. Guided tours are $2 for adults and $1 for children. Facilities include an active Amtrak waiting room, a museum of railroad memorabilia, a model railroad, and a Union Pacific caboose.
OTHER AWARDS: Recorded Texas Landmark, 1990; National Register of Historic Places.
HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE: Marshall, Texas, settled in 1841, acted as a market center for a productive agricultural region. The need to ship cotton led to the building of the Southern Pacific Railroad from Marshall to Swanson's Landing in 1857. It became redundant with the decline of steamboat traffic. The Texas & Pacific Railroad, chartered in 1871, was much more ambitious. The only federally chartered railroad in Texas , Congress authorized the T & P to build from Marshall to San Diego, California. Marshall and Harrison County donated land and $300,000 in bonds to the company to secure its shops and corporate headquarters. The depot, built in 1912, served what passengers remained. The T & P stopped carrying passengers in 1970. Amtrak began service in 1974, but passengers were not allowed into the depot's decayed rooms. When the T & P merged with the Missouri Pacific in 1976, the management ordered that T & P logos be removed from the building with sledgehammers. In 1982, Missouri Pacific merged with Union Pacific. The new owners applied in 1988 for a demolition permit to remove the depot, which had been vacant for fourteen years. Saving the depot could not be justified as a business decision, but preservation soon became a political, historic, and civic duty.
HISTORY OF THE STRUCTURE: The first T & P depot in Marshall dated from the construction of the railroad in 1872. It burned prior to 1883, but was not replaced until 1888. The Texas Railroad Commission pronounced that depot to be too small and demanded a bigger one. The 1912 depot, a Prairie Style structure designed by a T&P architect, occupied a site wedged between three tracks (a wye), and would endure extreme tremors from passing trains. Therefore, the builders used red paving bricks from Thurber, Texas, to make its walls solid, and installed a tile roof to prevent cinder-blown fires. These were the days of Plessy v. Ferguson, so the waiting rooms were racially segregated. The T & P took this idea even further by having separate rooms for each sex. All four waiting rooms had coffered ceilings and were reached by a paneled lobby divided by ionic columns. The dispatchers' offices maintained records and handled paperwork, while the telegraph office determined the locations of the trains. Freight was not handled through the depot, but at the adjacent Wells Fargo Freight Office. A tunnel linked the depot and freight office. A remodeling in 1939 supervised by architect Fred Gordon Shaw cost $160,000. Some Prairie-style detailing was stripped out to give a streamlined Art Deco appearance. Parking lots were added, and two long stretches of canopies protected passengers from the elements as they boarded and debarked. Up to fifteen passenger trains a day used the building, so it was highly functional and a necessary part of the local infrastructure.
RESTORATION: The first group that tried to save the T & P depot formed in 1981, shortly after the Missouri Pacific moved its passenger operations to Longview . Max Lale, then-chairman of the Harrison County Historical Commission, feared that the company's move presaged demolition of the structure. He organized SOS (Save Our Station) and obtained a listing as a contributing property in the Ginocchio District on the National Register of Historic Places, postponing any possible demolition. The group also obtained a Texas Historical Marker while a second organization, Friends of the Depot, gathered a few thousand dollars but could not convince the railroad to let them lease or buy the building. Shortly thereafter, the building passed to Union Pacific, which applied for a demolition permit in 1988. The National Register designation forced a timely delay, and citizens led by Mayor Audrey Kariel formed Marshall Depot, Inc. This group finally succeeded, though not without persistence and a stroke of luck. For one thing, Kariel inspired retired railroad workers and school children to write the company's president to ask him not to tear down the depot. She also interested Marshall native Bill Moyers in the project. Moyers and his wife wound up sharing a table with the CEO of Union Pacific, Drew Lewis, at a New York social event. They talked about what the depot meant to Marshall, and Lewis later a long lease on the depot to the city. The restoration turned out to be more expensive than anyone would have believed. Marshall Depot, Inc. (MDI) raised the building's visibility is state preservation circles by seeking and obtaining Recorded Texas Landmark status in 1990. In 1991, MDI studied the building's condition and developed a long-range plan for stabilization, restoration, and reuse. The leaking roof demanded immediate attention, so MDI raised $80,000 from local residents and businesses, as well as the Union Pacific Foundation, to fix it. Other early improvements included the repair of the doors & windows, the addition of benches for Amtrak passengers, and the cleaning of the grounds. The group's intelligent use of funds and its extensive grassroots support influenced the Texas Department of Transportation to give MDI a $70,000 architectural planning grant from its federal funds through the Intermodal Surface Transportation Enhancement Act Enhancement Grants (known as ISTEA for short). If nothing else, the restorers of the depot got a thorough education in the complex world of grant-seeking! To get the grant, MDI had to furnish matching funds of $21,000, so that stretched their fundraising capacity. Then, once the study was finished, the experts determined that the full restoration would cost $1.3 million. The people of Marshall nearly passed out, but it was too late to turn back. ISTEA said it would grant $980,000 toward the restoration if MDI came up with $244,000 in matching funds. This seemed like a huge sum, but the Meadows Foundation of Dallas helped get the drive rolling with a challenge grant of $84,000 that only materialized if MDI raised the remaining $160,000. Again, the same supporters pitched in, and the Union Pacific Foundation gave on a yearly basis. It also handed the depot a surplus caboose that could be exhibited to visitors. Once the money was raised, the full restoration began in 1998 under architects Gerald Bratz and Joe Boucher. Inauthentic but necessary additions included central heat and air, accessibility features, and an elevator. MDI continues to exist as a non-profit auxiliary to the building's operations. It solicits memberships and donations, maintains a website, gives tours, and operates a museum. Many people are taking a new interest in the building, and singer Don Henley of the Eagles even gave the depot an antique bar from the Ginocchio Hotel. The depot is also serving railroads again--two Amtrak Texas Eagle trains stop each day en route from Chicago to San Antonio . There's a waiting room, snack shop, gift shop, railroad museum, tourist information center, and office space available for rent. Marshall is a Main Street City, and the restored depot works well with the rest of the historic district. We congratulate Marshall Depot, Inc. and the people of Harrison County on a job well done.