|City/Town: • Joplin|
|Location Class: • Railroad|
|Built: • 1911 | Abandoned: • 1969|
|Historic Designation: • National Register of Historic Places (March 14, 1973)|
|Status: • Abandoned • Endangered • For Sale|
|Photojournalist: • Billy Wade|
The Union Depot of Joplin was designed by prominent Kansas City architect Louis Curtiss. The construction of the larger than most train station began in April of 1910 and took a little over a year to complete. At the dedication ceremony on June 30, 1911, a crowd of 2,500 people welcomed the arrival of Katy Train No. 83, the first train into the station. The depot had eight terminal tracks leading into the station, with long train sheds to shelter boarding passengers.
The depot has 2 one-story wings connected to the two-story central portion of the building. The depots’ amenities remind me of that of a modern-day airport with waiting rooms, restrooms, a ticket office, a telegraph office and a newsstand. Also featured a restaurant, dining rooms, coffee shop, men’s smoking room, and a “retiring room” for women. Many perks came for the employees and community from the depot. Such as round trip tickets sold at 1 1/2 fares for Christmas in 1928, and an employee activity club in 1948.
The last passenger train to ever roll through the Union Depot was a Kansas City Southern Railway Co. train on November 3, 1969. During this era, dozens of train stations across the United States had closed down as transportation by train began to die out and the shipment of goods started to shift to trucking. The building became abandoned and over the years has experienced tons of vandalism and graffiti by those who can’t appreciate history for what it is. But for those that can, they have been leading efforts to restore the building since 1972.
Just a few years after its closing the City Council fixed a proposal from the Centennial Commission to restore the depot and restore it into the Joplin Museum Complex. Just a year later on March 23, 1973, their nomination for the Union Depot to be listed on the NRHP was accepted making it the first building in Joplin to make the register. From 1977-1980 the building had multiple failed attempts at restoration. Developers Kirk Yocum and Mary Manard had asked the city for $70,000 in community development funds to possibly turn the depot into a restaurant, Renaissance Renovation and Development contracted to buy the depot to restore it into a restaurant and retail center, and then sold to Innovative Management and Investment Inc. All failed at redeveloping the property mostly due to lack of funds.
Locals Larry and Linda Fullerton purchased the depot in 1983 with the Joplin Union Depot Restoration Nonprofit Organization being formed three years later. Headed by Nancy Allman, she acquired the building and began to seek private and public funds to start the restoration. Allman said if the building were to finally be restored it would attract tourism of local and non-local persons and received $125,000 in community development funds for the project. For the next three years, Glenn Construction Co. had cleaned up and done exterior work on the building. But that all halted when a legal battle ensued between Glenn Construction and Nancy Allman. David Glenn sued stating Allman had not made payments on work that he and his crew had already completed. To which Nancy responded with a countersuit saying he had done damage to the building and was overcharging her. Glenn Construction Co. was able to halt the foreclosure sale of the building but it is unknown if they ever received the money they were owed.
In 1998 the Department of Natural Resources was granted ownership of the depot after being the only bid of $175,000. The building continued to sit abandoned and vandalized for a decade before talks of restoration came again. It seemed thus far that the iconic Union Depot would never get restored after many failed attempts. By 2010 city manager Mark Rohr had proposed that Union Depot house the Joplin Museum Complex, almost as if to bring the last almost forty years full circle. Council members authorized the expenditure of up to $25,000 to develop further plans but in another blow, the plans were never developed.
Department of Natural Resources and State Historic Preservation Office is more than open to selling it, in fact they’ve agreed to donate the building as long as the organization responsible has the needed finances and experience to make it happen and honor a rehabilitation covenant. David Glenn of The Glenn Group LLC has been tasked by the State of Missouri with finding the right person to give this building back its glory days. To see more information visit their website www.joplinuniondepot.com. The Union Depot today still sits lonely and empty with a movement online known as ‘Save Union Depot – Joplin, Missouri’ continuing to fight for the preservation and saving of this historic structure.
Gallery Below of Joplin Union Depot
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