PAST Logo Palo Alto Stanford Heritage

Home Architects & Builders  Holiday House Tour Newsletters Walking Tours
About PAST Centennial Houses INVENTORY Preservation Awards Contact PAST
Advocacy History and Architecture Articles   Master Index to Houses Resources Join / Donate

Palo Alto Historic Buildings Inventory

95 University Avenue
Southern Pacific Train Station/Cal Train Station

inventory photo 2015 photo
Inventory photo Photo taken February 28, 2015


The following is from the Historic Buildings Inventory made in 1978:

Physical appearance:   This one-story streamlined Southern Pacific station personifies the tendency of the 1930s to style buildings in the imagery of transportation machinery, in this case the Streamline train. The building has all the classic trademarks of the mode—porthole windows, horizontal parallel lines to indicate speed and glass blocks. The interior has a mural in the style of the period. Rehabilitation work on building and grounds was made in 1983.

The property also is composed of commuter kiosks and a small passenger protection structure.

Significance:  On October 22, 1940, the cornerstone was laid for the new railroad station. It was most likely designed by a full-time architect employed by Southern pacific. The new station replaced the one built in 1896. the building is 215 feet long by 25 feet wide with an arcade in front and a marquee at the rear including two buildings connected by an arcade.

room for ticket office, waiting room, rest rooms, a baggage room with a passageway between the waiting room and baggage room with a passageway between the waiting room and baggage room made up the station interior.

On January 25, 1941, the new glass-tile-stucco building was opened for business, although the ceremony for the Palo Alto Grade Separation Project took place on March 8, 1941. In the interior of the building is a mural by John McQuarrie. Its central theme is Leland Stanford's dream of a university influenced by a pageant of transportation. Mural depicts facts and events of significance and influence historically expressed in the development of California.

Approximate cost was $50,000.

The depot is a very rare and perhaps unique example in California of a Streamline train station.


long view
waiting area view from Alma
old station from south
The Circle underpass
Alma and University before and after the underpass.
historic photo from PAHA archive map
Location map

This structure was built in 1940 and is a Category 1 on the Historic Buildings Inventory. The architect was J. H. Christie, Chief, Southern Pacific Design Office, and the builder was the Southern Pacific Company. The property measures 230 by 785 feet. It was added to the National Register on April 18, 1976.

Sources: Oakland City Directory, 1924; Palo Alto Times 2/15/40, 8/2/40, 1/25/41, 5/10/41; interview with Edgar A. McDowell, former employee of Southern Pacific, 12/10/78; Palo Alto Historical Association Railroad file


FaceBook f

E-mail us at either or

PAST Logo Palo Alto Stanford Heritage—Dedicated to the preservation of Palo Alto's historic buildings.