San Jose CA train station
Southern Pacific Depot, San Jose California
The construction of the Southern Pacific depot in 1935 at 65 Cahill Street in San Jose, Santa Clara County, was the culmination of a 30-year effort to relocate 4.5 miles of the South Pacific Coast line of the Southern Pacific Railroad away from the heavy traffic of the downtown area around the Market Street Depot to the west side of the city, an industrial neighborhood area in the nineteenth century and the formerly the location of rail facilities belonging to other railroads. The Southern Pacific Depot relocation was heralded as the first major railroading change in San Jose in nearly three quarters of a century.
The new $100,000 building, part of a $3,250,000 project, replaced the Market Street station which had been built in 1872. The Southern Pacific depot on Cahill Street was designed by Southern Pacific architect, John H. Christie, who had worked on the Southern Pacific remodeling of the Fresno, California depot in 1915 and later, in 1939, worked on the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal. The depot on Cahill Street in San Jose was constructed by the C.N. Swenson Construction Company. The grade separations for the station were heralded as models of safe design. The Cahill Street station replaced the Market Street station in San Jose as the terminus of the San Francisco Peninsula rail service, which has operated since the 1860s. Today the neighborhood is semi-industrial, as it has been for nearly a hundred years. The liveliest operation remains that at the depot.
Contemporary literature of the 1930s described the Southern Pacific Depot in San Jose as designed in the Italian Renaissance Revival style, though in retrospect it can be interpreted as an eclectic design combining the historicist elements with contemporary Streamline Moderne features. The revival idiom prescribed the monumental character which is established by the massing of the main structure with the two wings. This is enhanced by the texture of the masonry. However, the application of the cantilevered marquee, for example, injected a contemporary element, emphasizing the passage of crowds and suggesting the grand movie houses of the period. The waiting room mural, painted by John MacQuarrie, the artist responsible for murals in the Southern Pacific depot at Sacramento and the statue commemorating the Donner Party in Truckee, California, was an interior detail that suited the historicist motif but was common to Moderne design as well.
The Southern Pacific Depot in San Jose has the distinction of being one of only four transportation facilities in the Italian Renaissance Revival style in California. It is the only one in that style in the Southern Pacific San Francisco-San Jose Peninsula Service and the largest surviving depot on that line. The well-proportioned and gracefully-detailed building was the last depot constructed in the grand-scale in northern California and, serves to represent the architectural and corporate ambitions of its time. It is one of six large-scale passenger terminals in California that are still extant. It is furthermore unusually large and elaborate to have been built in the late 1930s. The Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal is the only other large depot that was built in the 1930's. The other large-scale stations in the state, located in Stockton, Sacramento, Oakland, and San Diego date from the 1910's and 1920's.
The Southern Pacific Depot in San Jose retains a high level of integrity. It is essentially unaltered since its construction and has continued to serve its original purpose. It has undergone few changes in the years since its construction, save for the removal of the galvanized steel facing of the cantilevered marquee and some cosmetic deterioration due to the passage of time. Yet it continues to function for new generations of travelers and it still dominates the site with stately grandeur.
The other structures at the Cahill station were built or installed to complement the new rail facility. The Santa Clara Underpass was constructed in 1933. The ornamental iron railing and, most probably, the water tower were built at the same time as the depot. The history of the car cleaner's shack, the herder's shack and the compressor house is more obscure. They were most likely moved onto the in the mid-1930s, though the car cleaners' shack may have been moved to its present location at a later date.
Though these utilitarian buildings have undergone some modifications and deterioration over the years, they retain enough integrity to represent vernacular railroad structures once common within the Southern Pacific Company system. Such buildings were repeatedly relocated and their dates of construction are a mystery even in Southern Pacific Company property records. The three sheds at the Southern Pacific Depot on Cahill Street were most likely constructed between 1900 and 1920 in accordance with Southern Pacific Lines common standard plans specifications. Because such buildings were constantly recycled, they are fast disappearing, particularly, as their function is eliminated. They survive to represent the physical operation of the Southern Pacific Cahill Street yard of which the Depot was the centerpiece.
The Southern Pacific Depot on Cahill Street in San Jose is a multi-level combination (passenger and freight) railroad depot constructed in the Italian Renaissance Revival style. Built in 1935, it consists of a three-story central section flanked by two-story wings. The building, a compilation of rectangular sections, is 390 feet long and varies in width from 40 feet to 78 feet. The central section, which contains the passenger waiting room, measures 40 by 80 feet and 33 feet in height. The high center pavilion housing the waiting room is constructed of steel columns and trusses. The side wings are framed with wood. The roofs of the three main sections are hipped with medium boxed eaves and covered with terra cotta tile in varied shades of red and "sunset." The south and rear wings are flat roofed and only trimmed with terra cotta tile. The exterior walls are clad with tapestry brick of varied colors and arranged in an English bonding pattern. The foundation walls are concrete. The depot is located in an industrial area dominated by warehouses and related commercial businesses. The depot faces east onto Cahill Street, which is lined with trees. Several vernacular sheds, a water tower, butterfly passenger sheds and the nearby Alameda Underpass are all within the railroad station area, which serves as the setting for the depot. The property is in fair condition and has been altered very little since its construction.
The main facade of the depot possesses three tall arches that frame the main entry and windows. The multi-light fixed windows are steel sash and wood framed. They are set in recessed fields which create vertical brick surrounds to compliment the symmetry. Flanking the central arch, a pair of pilasters, inset with capital terra cotta appliques, repeats the image. Surmounting the brick fields surrounding the arches, a white terra cotta imbrication with two rows of zigzags supports a metal cornice in a reference to the classical entablature. A cantilevered galvanized steel and concrete marquee shelters the main entry. Once on the marquee, galvanized steel facing repeating the pilaster theme with capped colonettes has been removed. The marquee and the windows show the most pronounced deterioration on the facade.
The recessed brick fields and terra cotta appliques of the main structure are repeated on the facades of the side wings. The windows there, however, are rectangular and include casement sections. Connected by a concourse distinguished by large basket arches which lead to the tracks, a southern one and one half story annex was constructed as the baggage office, telegraph and telephone office and equipment room. Befitting its purpose, the annex possesses wooden garage doors and loading docks.
The decorative features of the facade are also repeated on the rear of the central building, with its reversed role as entrance to the building and San Jose beyond for passengers arriving by train. Extending from the rear of the building a single story glass and metal structure encloses the concourse to the pedestrian subway to the metal butterfly sheds (described in contemporary writings as umbrella sheds) that sheltered waiting passengers.
The interior of the waiting room has terrazzo floors with stone inlay. The walls are scored in a ashlar pattern (Caen stone plaster) above a marble wainscot. The coffered ceiling possesses a large ridge beam flanked by two purlins on either side which support beveled rafters decorated with corbels. The beams are grained and stenciled with a floral pattern. At the north and south ends of the waiting room blind arches lead to the attached wings. A moderne clock is located above the blind arch on the south end of the room. Above the north arch there is a mural by San Francisco artist John MacQuarrie. The mural depicts the colonization of the Santa Clara Valley, with a view of modern San Jose, the Lick Observatory, and a train in the background clouds. Plaster grilles with ornamental motifs flank the clock and mural. The original marble ticket counter at the north end of the room includes rippled glass, maple ticket files, and lights supported on tubular brass arches.
There are several structures within the boundaries of the railroad station. An iron gate with Square classical posts and curvilinear details is located on the north side of the depot. Butterfly passenger sheds between tracks 2 and 3 and tracks 4 and 5 were erected by the Soule Steel Company to the west of the depot, connected by a subterranean passage. Located to the south of the depot is a vernacular wood-framed shed, commonly referred to as the car Cleaners' shack. It is gable-roofed and clad with board and batten siding, and possesses a series of doorways in the facade for the men's and women's locker rooms within the building. The water tank is situated to the west across the tracks. About 600 feet to the north there is presently located a small rectangular wood-clad compressor house from which the machinery has been removed. The four passenger tracks, separate track for handling mail, baggage, and express in carload lots, and freight tracks, which handle traffic around the terminal yard without interfering with passenger trains, are relatively intact features of the station, though there has been some minor realignment over time and the rails and ties have been replaced.
The Santa Clara Underpass is located about 500 feet to the north of the depot. It is comprised of 43 simple span rolled steel beams on a reinforced concrete pier with windows, and double-walled abutments with pedestrian passages. Its two spans total 82 feet in length, and carry three tracks of the Southern Pacific Depot's north yard throat over Route 82, crossing the roadway at right angles (no skew). The bridge has solid parapet railings, with a large enameled Southern Pacific herald placed above the center pier. Railing ends posts are surmounted by Beaux-Arts luminares cast by the Joshua Hendy Iron Works at Sunnyvale.
At the north end of the underpass there is located a small wood-framed herder's shack (which shelters the railman responsible for switching tracks at the end of the yard). The walls are clad with board and batten siding and the gabled roof is covered with shingles. The door is sheltered by a corrugated metal awning.
The structure was lengthened by four and a half feet at an unknown date, probably in the 1930s or 1940s. The Santa Clara Underpass has spalled concrete.