Southern Pacific Depot (Edinburg)
Edinburg's historic Southern Pacific Depot is located at 602 West University Dr. Built in 1927 by Southern Pacific Railway architect Leonard B. McCoy, the building has been the home to the Chamber of Commerce since its 1996 restoration.
The Southern Pacific Depot was restored with a $400,000 grant from the Texas Department of Transportation, and a $100,000 grant from the City of Edinburg. It is now the home of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce.
Travel & Economic Development
The city welcomed the first Southern Pacific Railway train on January 11, 1927. The event drew a spectacle and schools were dismissed for the day. Upon arrival, the train “punched” through a paper banner that read: “The entry of the Southern Pacific means the dawn of a new era for Edinburg and the Lower Rio Grande Valley.”
Passenger services began in February 1927, six months before the depot was completed and open for business. Students traveled to faraway colleges, families traveled to nearby cities for shopping, and, during World War II, many young men rode to join the services or return home on leave. Train traveling became especially necessary during the time of gasoline and tire rationing.
The Sunset Route runs from Los Angeles, California to New Orleans, Louisiana. Passenger trains would leave the Rio Grande Valley and make connections in San Antonio or Houston, where passengers would board either Southern Pacific’s premier or secondary trains, the Sunset Limited and the Argonaut.
Southern Pacific (SP) engine #393 was one of several trains that would visit the Rio Grande Valley in order to transport citrus and produce to other parts of the United States.
Texas Historic Landmark
The Southern Pacific Depot became a recorded historic building in 1996, through the combined work of the Hidalgo County Historical Commission, the marker committee, and the Chamber of Commerce.
The marker text reads, "Completed and occupied on August 1, 1927, this depot was designed by Southern Pacific Railroad architect Leonard B. McCoy, and built by Ward Construction of El Paso. The depot was part of a major railroad expansion into South Texas. Edinburg felt a positive economic impact when the railroad began shipping citrus and vegetables and serving passengers' needs. Passenger service ceased in 1952, although freight service continued until 1982. The train depot is a fine example of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. Features include double entries, tile detailing and built-in benches. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1996"
Yet, the marker omits the historically significant reason for the "double entries". The depot was built at the height of the Jim Crow Era, which meant the architect had to follow National Public Transportation laws, which racially segregated travelers. This meant the two entrances were designed to lead to two different waiting areas--one large one for white passengers and one smaller one for black passengers. The building was also designed with separate White and "Colored" restrooms, water fountains, and track-side doors.
Building Design & Renovation
Leonard B. McCoy, a regular Southern Pacific Railway architect, designed the Rio Grande Valley depots in the Spanish Colonial Revival style of the 1920s.
The main entrances were located on the east side of the depot, while boarding and loading areas were located on the west. Removal of past renovations revealed the original masonry arched windows and verandas along the North and West façade, which provided an open-air boarding and loading area. The Southern Pacific logo was placed on the stained-glass window located between the two main entrances. The depot’s main entrances were also flanked by two large concrete urns.
On December 12, 1952, the final passenger train left the depot, followed by the final freight train in 1982. Miguel Pizzuto purchased the building in 1989 and began renovating it, although it was never completed.
The City of Edinburg purchased and renovated the historic Southern Pacific Depot. The groundbreaking ceremony for the restoration project was held on January 22, 1996. With Edinburg architects Morales-Best-Hinojosa, the restoration was completed in August 1996. Completion of the depot restoration included landscaping and providing a parking area for the new use of the facility. Edinburg Chamber of Commerce moved into the building on September 3, 1996 and have committed to ensuring the depot's historic legacy will live on for future generations.
Texas Historical Commission. [Historic Marker Application: Southern Pacific Depot of Edinburg], text, 1997; University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, crediting Texas Historical Commission.