The Journal of San Diego History
Spring 1988, Volume 34, Number 2
Thomas L. Scharf, Editor

by James N. Price

Santa Fe Stations


History: San Diego’s original Santa Fe depot was built in 1887, and it was replaced in 1915 by today’s lovely mission-style building in time for the Panama Pacific Exposition. On the south end, the station originally had a large covered patio area that is now a parking lot. This depot has been in continual use for both passenger and freight traffic. In fact it served as a “Union Station” for both Santa Fe and the San Diego & Arizona for several decades. Santa Fe proposed to raze it in the early 1970s, but the building was saved by its addition to the National Historic Register in 1972. Santa Fe later, refurbished the building’s interior. And on the occasion of the 100th year of the arrival of the first transcontinental train to San Diego (November, 1985), the Daughters of the American Revolution placed an historical plaque on the building in recognition of its value to the community.

Present Use: This building still serves as San Diego’s rail passenger and freight depot, handling more than a dozen Amtrak and numerous non-passenger trains each day. In the future, Santa Fe plans to use it as the centerpiece in the development of a hotel and shopping complex.

Location. This distinctive and active railroad depot lies on the north side of Broadway at the corner of Kettner Avenue in downtown San Diego.

San Diego's elegant mission style station  
San Diego’s elegant mission style station still serves the city’s passengers and freight. Note the removal of the covered waiting area in comparison to 1915 photo on the cover [below].

San Diego's elegant mission style station  
Front Cover: Downtown San Diego’s elegant mission style railroad station as it looked shortly after its construction in 1915 (it replaced an earlier station built in 1887). The Santa Fe Railroad proposed to raze the building in the early 1970s, but it has since been restored. Courtesy San Diego History Center Title Insurance and Trust Collection

San Diego Trolley  
Back Cover: The downtown terminus of the San Diego Trolley is the Santa Fe/Amtrak railroad depot. The system operates between this point and the border as well as to the East County.