Arcadia Railroad Depot, Arcadia Louisiana
The Vicksburg, Shreveport and Pacific Railroad Depot (1910) is a single story board and batten building located on the railroad corridor of downtown Arcadia.
Although there were a few railroad lines constructed in Louisiana prior to the Civil War, railroading did not begin in earnest until about 1880. For example, by 1860 only 335 miles of track had been laid, and by 1880 that figure had not even doubled. But between 1880 and 1910 over 4,000 miles of track were laid. These were the boom years of Louisiana railroading, a period during which railroads competed with, and generally defeated, older forms of transportation such as steamboats. In many ways the railroad remade the state. In choosing major outlines of their routes, railroad officials were governed not by existing settlement patterns, but by their overall plan for continental development. Many new towns were created as a result of railroad expansion. Examples include Crowley, DeRidder, Eunice, and Many, to name just a few. In addition, there were cases like Arcadia where existing towns relocated to be near the railroad. Moreover, it is certain that the rice boom and the lumber boom, which were so important to the economy of Louisiana, would not have been possible without a well developed railroad network. In the late nineteenth century railroads were as much desired as interstate highways were in the mid-twentieth century. Every small town Chamber of Commerce waited for "the great day" when the railroad would come. Those towns which were bypassed by the railroad ceased to thrive and ultimately became economic backwaters with small populations.
The great era of railroading is a definite epoch in Louisiana history. When in 1910, the railroads reached their maximum growth in the state, scarcely anyone imagined that four decades later they would be in sharp decline. To a large extent this decline was triggered by competition from automobile transportation and ultimately the interstate highway system. By 1970 mainline trackage in Louisiana was less than 15% of what it had been in 1910.
There is no doubt that during the great railroad era (c.l880-c.!940) the town of Arcadia existed and continued to flourish principally because of the presence of the railroad. Not only was the railroad the major artery of commerce for this inland commercial center, but the town itself had relocated about two miles in 1884 to be near the railroad. Being a railroad town enabled "New Arcadia" to prosper as a ginning and shipping center for cotton in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although the present 1910 depot is not the original one, it does represent railroading as a historical force in the town from its construction through the mid-twentieth century. In addition, it is the town's only cultural resource directly associated with railroading. Although other buildings in Arcadia date from the railroad era, they should be regarded as byproducts of railroading prosperity and not the representative of the primary instigator of that prosperity.
As is the case with most small community railroad depots, the passenger and freight components are combined in a single building. The east end of the depot is the freight area and has exposed roof trusses and an exterior loading platform and ramp. The center of the building is the baggage area. The west end of the depot contains the ticket office and separate waiting rooms for whites and blacks. The walls and ceilings in the principal rooms are sheathed in narrow gauge beaded board. The only decorative touches are the beveled cornerblocks on the door, window and ticket window surrounds.
The exterior of the depot is plain board and batten with six over six windows and transoms over the principal doors. Plain brackets support a wide skirting roof which encompasses the entire building. Each end of the roof features a large imbricated shingle gablet with a round louvered vent.