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Historically Speaking Gilroy’s Historic Depot at Age 99 Written By Elizabeth Barrett “The decision will be hailed with joy by our citizens as marking a new era in the city’s history.” January 20, 1917 Gilroy Advocate I n 1917, Southern Pacific officials decided to renovate the town’s original train station and move it to a fresh locale. The dilapidated structure had been serving travelers for 50 years. The unsanitary restrooms needed replacement, and the waiting areas were considered insufficient for the number of daily travelers passing through. A large, covered outdoor waiting area was needed. In short, the place was outdated. The original depot, completed in 1870, was the same age as Gilroy. The station had served as a transportation hub for passengers as well as a loading and shipping point for growers and merchants. Regular shipments of agricultural produce, livestock and grain were loaded at the station, ready for north- or south-bound delivery to markets across the country. After railroad officials announced plans to only refur- bish, and not replace, the old structure, civic leaders and the Chamber of Commerce called for a completely new, modern depot. Their complaint was taken up by locals and carried to the California State Railroad Commissioner. At the hearing, Southern Pacific officials claimed the company lacked the finances to build a new depot. However, citizens who argued in favor of a modern facility prevailed and the company was ordered to proceed. The old station was ordered torn down and preparations for its replacement, estimated to cost around $10,000, were soon underway. The new depot site was to moved slightly west and several feet south of the original location. The shift would allow room for new double tracks, enabling a faster trip to San Jose, and 66 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN provide more ample space for the fashionable Del Monte Express, which carried train passengers between San Francisco and Pacific Grove. Gilroy now would have “as fine a depot as any interior town in the state,” declared the May 20, 1917 Gilroy Advocate. The new design would be an elaborate, one-story building in the neo-Italian Renaissance style, planned to resemble the Redwood City station. Besides new, modern restrooms, an additional outdoor arcade-type waiting area was designed to offer better protection against the weather. Luggage and freight handling would be from an outside platform and a new baggage room was planned for the north side of the structure . A modern ticket office was be located at the south end of the waiting room. Central steam heat would provide comfort to passengers during cold months. Dignitaries and citizens who had campaigned for the new depot were thrilled to attend the formal opening of Gilroy’s new Southern Pacific Depot on April 30, 1918. The public was impressed with the larger inside space and the outdoor waiting and loading areas. Reporting on the grand opening, the Advocate’s editor praised new depot, noting it was “the most artistic railroad on the coast between Santa Barbara and San Francisco.” The interior design included an oak floor, high ceilings, up-to-date restrooms finished in tile and marble, a telegraph operator s desk, a new hand semaphore system, and a pay telephone. The exterior façade was in cement plaster over a redwood framework, topped by a red tile roof. An electric sign JULY/AUGUST 2017 gmhtoday.com