Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Gloomy hulk: Union Station, Texarkana, Arkansas/Texas

Texarkana is an old time commercial and transport town straddling the border of northeast Texas and southwest Arkansas. The historic downtown is a bit dilapidated but may be experiencing a bit of revival. While driving through town, my wife and I saw a forlorn brick Beaux Arts railroad station with broken windows and obvious signs of decades of neglect. According to Wikipedia, "Texarkana Union Station was constructed and operated by Union Station Trust, a subsidiary organization created as a joint effort between the Missouri-Pacific, Texas & Pacific, Cotton Belt and Kansas City Southern railroads. E. M. Tucker, chief architect for Missouri Pacific, designed the building with a track layout and overhead concourse reminiscent of the style he had used when rebuilding Little Rock Union Depot after a 1921 fire." A cornerstone showed 1929.

We parked and walked to the former entrance doors. Surely they were not open. A dirty glass door swung open. The building was unlocked?
The entrance led the potential train traveler up a flight of terrazzo stairs to the grand entry hall. No one there? No security? No signs?
The main hall was grand and echoey, intended to impress with solidity, prosperity, and permanence. This was not Pennsylvania Station in New York or Union Station in Los Angeles, but the Texarkana train traveler need not feel any less important.
The ticket boots were behind glass framed with mahogany. Note the glazed buff tile, durable for the ages.
Some of the side rooms off the main hall are a mess. Do homeless people sleep here? What are these bags of junk and rags?
Other side rooms may have been waiting rooms. The carpet was a late addition.
The balconies on the rail yard side of the building were fenced off. Amtrak uses a few dingy rooms on the east end of the building for a waiting area and ticket sales, but it never occupied this main part of the station because there was no access for handicapped travelers (not a priority when the station was built in 1929-1930).
An abandoned kitchen with drop ceiling was rather grim. The machinery was definitely post-1930s, so someone must have tried to use the old station for a function or entertainment venue.
Dark stairs led to the second floor. There was a nice view of the main hall and some empty side rooms. I assume these were offices at one time.
Ah ha, one of these. But definitely not 1930s original. I did not try it.
Finally, back outside. As you can see, this station once also served as a freight operation, where cargo could be offloaded from or placed on trucks.

Union Station was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, less than a decade after the last rail passenger departed in 1971. The problem is, what next? Who can use the building? Who can afford the cost of repair and renovation?

These digital files are from a Fuji X-E1 digital camera, most with the 14mm ƒ/2.8 lens, tripod-mounted. Some of the interior rooms needed long exposures, an advantage to digital capture because there is no need to accommodate reciprocity failure.

1 comment:

Kara Jordan said...

So glad to have found your photos! I've been wondering about the station for twenty+ years!