The Secret Train Station Hidden Downtown

THE SECRET TRAIN STATION HIDDEN DOWNTOWN “See, everyone in Houston thinks that our old train station was over by Enron Field (this blog does not recognize Minute Maid’s sponsorship deal) and that it’s been preserved as part of the ballpark. But actually, we had TWO stations – the Southern Pacific had their own, seperate from the Astros station, a mission/art deco fusion with beautiful murals on the walls and great big arched windows. Pictures of the place . . . are few and far between, but the ones I’ve seen show something that rivals LA Union Terminal or [Philadelphia’s 30th St. Station.] That station was torn down to make way for the Barbara Jordan [Post Office], except that ONLY THE WAITING ROOM WAS TORN DOWN. The whole mess of platforms and switchtracks that goes along with an art deco station building is still there, behind the post office, rusted and overgrown but still in existence as a huge chunk of UP-owned real estate.” [Keep Houston Houston]

14 Comment

  • Ahhh…finally a photo. Thanks Scott! Sure looks like an interesting building and hopefully what remains will find a good use one day.

  • Why don’t you recognize Minute Maid? That’s kind of silly, don’t you think? Would you prefer Enron over Minute Maid? Time to start reading another blog now that this one just got political.

  • Too bad all that remains are figments of the commenter’s imagination. There’s one tiny worthless building and a single platform for Amtrack passengers. It’s not hidden either. Anyone can drive up, park their car and walk around. No one does because there’s nothing to see.

  • What is it about this city that it seems to so easily tear up its history? So many nice cities have nice, historic train stations and I am not just talking about DC, Chicago, NYC, etc. here. Denver, Dallas, Oklahoma City…hell even Phoenix has a historic downtown train station! Unfortunately, here in Houston, this city just bulldozes its history.

  • Houston and it’s people didn’t tear down this station. UPRR and the Federal Government did. Houston did a pretty good job of preserving it’s other train station at Minute Maid Park. They even restored the old ticket booths. The only thing missing currently is trains and the waiting benches in the station. The benches are gone because the large room it rented for parties.

  • @josh: If you have questions and comments for the author of the essay excerpted above, you might try posting them on that author’s site. Try following the link.

  • kjb-

    Even if what you say is true, if this city cared one bit about historic renovation, they would have been up in arms against the feds. That kind of thing happens all the time but apparently it didn’t happen here when the wrecking ball came calling.

    That all being said, I am hoping we have started to turn a page here though. Although I wholeheartedly support Metro’s expansion, I was glad to see locals raise the issue of the preservation of the art deco building along the eastside line. It is a start. Hopefully we will see continued pressure on Metro after their pathetic attempts to “preserve” this historic building.

  • Wow, matt (one of them, sorry to the other) seems to believe anything UP says. UP does not care about Houston or any other city, including their HQ city Omaha. There is plenty of blame for a lack of leadership in Houston, but citing UP as somehow the good guy is just wrong.

  • Josh, it was a joke. I like to pepper posts with a snarky remark here and there. Last I checked, snark wasn’t inherently political – at least it wasn’t, prior to the Palin VP nom.


  • Southern Pacific (not Union Pacific, as one writer claimed), demolished this station in 1959. Critics may blame Houstonians for failing to rally and save the building, but the fact is that the modern architectural preservation movement didn’t start until the early 1970s, and even my architecturally hip home town of Chicago let some classic beauties like Louis Sullivan’s Stock Exchange slip away before public sentiment for preservation began to build. The first downtown railroad-station preservation-rrestoration project did not take place until 1973, when the Southern Railway’s vacant Terminal Station in Chattanooga was transformed into a restaurant and hotel complex.

    If anybody has any photos of the interior of the SP station in Houston I would like to examine them for a book I’m writing about what happened to each of the big downtown stations in North America. SP’s Houston Station was designed by Texas’s most celebrated architect, Wyatt C. Hedrick, who also designed the Shamrock Hotel, the T&P station in Fort Worth, and dozens of admired hotels, factories and commercial buildings. Photos of his T&P station are all over the Internet but SP demolished his Houston station before anyone had a chance to make any good photos.

  • Add Richmond, VA to your list of surviving (and great) downtown stations. Apparently it caught fire in the 70s when workers were converting it to a mall. Track is elevated through downtown and to the station. I mean elevated! Great building and a great way to get north up the east coast.

  • Valerie, that’s the second of three stations on that site.

    First station – Wood framed, old west style train depot
    Second station – The one in those pictures you posted.
    Third station – The semi-Art Deco concrete thing which spawned the Franklin/Washington overpasses and was junked in 1959, per Plouf’s comment.

    Incidentally UP has torn out all traces of the old platforms in the intervening 5 years since that post went up. It’s just dirt now. I don’t know if that’s UP trying to stave off any dreams of commuter rail (since you know they don’t like sharing their tracks) or if they got tired of it being an attractive nuisance for photographers and the like.