Glimpse of SBC’s Past Old Railroad Gems: Restoration And Reuse (Part II)

(October 17) By Ruth Musser-Lopez
The opportunities for converting historic structures to modern uses are only limited by one’s imagination.  Privatizing or leasing out space in a publicly owned structure may prove to be a very suitable way to finance a regular maintenance strategy, and in so doing can stabilize and extend the life of the historic property.  Though not a comprehensive list, here are some more ideas for reusing historic structures with the focus on San Bernardino County’s railroad depots.
One grand ATSF depot recently restored and reused lays at what was historically a critical juncture of San Bernardino County’s rail system. Barstow’s   “Casa de Desierto,” is a 1910-1913 hybridized 16th century Spanish/Southwest American Indian style depot and Harvey House designed by talented Mary Colter.  Like the El Garces in Needles, looters had plundered the delicate fixtures and features of Desierto and vagrants also trashed the once magnificent building.  The city of Barstow acquired, restored and reopened it in 1999, rented out space and it became  home to the Route 66 Mother Road Museum and the Western American Railroad Museum.
The Kelso Clubhouse and Restaurant is the 1920s Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad depot in Kelso designed after the Mission Revival and Colonial Revival architectural style.  It was also deteriorating in the 1980s but was restored, then reopened in 2005 and now serves as the East Mojave Headquarters and Visitor Center for the National Park Service (more info at          Built in 1937 by ATSF, the depot in Downtown Upland’s historic district is a handsome, but modest version of the Mission Revival style.  Currently, this “gentleman” is reused as the “Cigar Exchange” and the location of Pacific Wine Merchants, which caters to a clientele that includes foot traffic from the adjacent Metrolink station.
In Redlands, a more “feminine” looking Santa Fe depot was built around 1910, restored, maintained and now reused, in part, as the Rose of Sharon hair and beauty salon.
The Santa Fe depot in Etiwanda appears to have a bright future.  Currently sitting idle, it has been fenced off for protection and is located within the immediate area of a historic district actively being restored and reused by the Rancho Cucamonga community. The integrity of a historic structure’s architecture and style is dependent upon using “in kind” materials for replacement or restoration and this applies to the landscape and outdoor setting as well.  The district acts as a sort of outdoor historic building museum preserve within the traditional Etiwanda Historic district.   Historic structures are relocated to the “preserve” when they would otherwise be razed in the path of “improvements” and new community developments.
Hopes are great for restoration and reuse of the Etiwanda Depot, given the enthusiasm of the Etiwanda Historical Society.
A previous “Glimpse” column mentioned the availability of tax incentives and grants set aside for the preservation of cultural properties.   Restoration with “in kind” replacements is typically a prerequisite of such historic preservation grants.

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