As the somewhat clichéd song lyrics go, “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” In the case of the former rail station we’re visiting today, that almost happened – literally. The beautiful Santa Fe station in Fort Worth, Texas, was almost razed and turned into a parking lot. Thankfully, the property was purchased by real estate investor and developer Shirlee Gandy. After investing over two million into the building to properly restore it, it was reopened as the Ashton Depot, a lovely banquet hall that hosts weddings, corporate events, and other such festivities.
Opened in 1899, the depot was constructed in the beaux-arts style, though the design was undoubtedly influenced by the aesthetic of the southwest. The two-story rectangular building is constructed of bright red brick and detailed with white limestone. Fine details can be found on both the exterior and interior, including several lion heads that surround the building, and attractive plaster design work surrounding the inside archway.
Early view of the depot’s exterior, featuring some details that are a bit different today. Photo via Fort Worth Gazette.
Built for the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway, the building was generally known as the Santa Fe depot. Several other railroads had used the building, but by 1960 the Santa Fe was the only railroad that remained. Once Amtrak was formed, it was the sole user for passenger service up until 1995.
After falling into disuse and disrepair, the depot was purchased by Shirlee and Taylor Gandy who set about transforming it into the venue it is today. The depot’s tin roof, marble flooring, and plaster detailing are all original and were lovingly cleaned and restored. The stained glass windows – undoubtedly the depot’s most iconic feature – are also original. Expecting the demolishment of the building, these windows had been removed many years prior, and were found – intact, but dirty – in a warehouse. After about 18 months worth of delicate restoration, the stained glass windows were brought back home and reinstalled.
Though so much rail infrastructure has been lost over the years, it is good to know that there still are people that will step up and save historical buildings such as these. If anything, the Santa Fe Depot is a poster child for adaptive reuse – how we can still save our heritage, while simultaneously turning it into a profitable venture. The Ashton Depot is busy with multiple events each week, whether they be in-house or outside. For those who choose to hold their events elsewhere, the depot also contains a catering service. Not only does the Ashton Depot employ a chef, he even has a garden located outside in the former track bed – so it is not just the old building that has been reused.
Here are a few photos from my tour of the depot – if you ever happen to be in the Fort Worth area, make sure you check out this little gem. Special thanks goes to the folks at the Ashton Depot, especially Ashlee Jung and Cindy Vazquez for arranging a little tour for me to take most of these photos.