The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 79, July 1975 - April, 1976 Page: 417
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Notes and Documents
Railway Stations of Texas:
A Disappearing Architectural Heritage
KEITH L. BRYANT, JR.*
F OR SEVERAL DECADES IN THE LATE NINETEENTH AND EARLY TWEN-
tieth centuries the railway station served as one of the chief symbols of
the process of urbanization. Before the coming of Henry Ford's "horseless
carriage," the principal mode for transporting goods and people was the
nation's rail network. The railway depot served as the "front door" for the
community and as the egress to the outside world. Through the depot flowed
visitors, relatives, and settlers, as well as parcels from Sears, Roebuck, and
Montgomery Ward. The freight agent at the depot delivered farm ma-
chinery and other industrial products, and shipped wheat, cotton, cattle,
and sheep to market. The depot served as a social center where the resi-
dents of the town often gathered to observe the arrival and departure of
passenger trains. As towns became cities the depots became massive "union
stations" with dozens of trains passing through daily. By the mid-twentieth
century, however, the automobile, bus, and airplane had taken away the
passengers, and in many small communities declining freight traffic has led
to the closing of the stations or even abandonment of the railroad line. The
urban stations have often been razed, and the small town stations either
demolished or hauled away to be used for grain storage or other commer-
cial purposes. Thus, one of the nation's unique architectural heritages has
begun to disappear.
Because of its size, rapid urban growth, and substantial railway mileage,
the state of Texas contained a vast array of stations of innumerable archi-
tectural styles. Small wooden buildings in Panhandle villages contrast
sharply with the huge union stations of Dallas and Houston. The infinite
variety of styles and sizes has shrunk with the rapid demolition of these
structures, and only a few attempts at preservation have been successful.
Some of the buildings do not warrant preservation perhaps, and yet of
*Mr. Bryant is professor of history and associate dean of the graduate school at the
University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. He has recently published a History of the Atchi-
son, Topeka and Santa Fe Radlway.
1"Defending the Depots," Newsweek (September 9, 1974), 89, 91; Ada Louise Huxtable,
"Design: Railroad Stations: Going the Way of the Dinosaur," New York Times, July 21,
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 79, July 1975 - April, 1976, periodical, 1975/1976; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101203/m1/474/?rotate=270: accessed April 26, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.