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Palo Alto (1996)

Palo Alto Station Palo Alto has had three depots on University Avenue, starting with an early 1890’s makeshift shelter consisting of a former maintenance of way boxcar which served as freight, express, ticket and telegraph office, and a baggage room and an open-sided shelter area. The structure that evolved by 1896 was a wood frame building with a wide arcade. It served as a prototype for California depots with collonades.

The present Palo Alto depot was built using the Streamline Moderne style, inspired by the introduction of streamlined passenger trains. Using materials appropriate for the streamlined imagery popular at the time, the depot’s style was conveyed through the use modern materials such as glass blocks, aluminum and vitrolite to project an image that conveyed optimism about the powers of technology.

The Palo Alto depot’s northeast and southwest main block walls feature alternating panels of clear glass and glass block. A colored ceiling border of superimposed chevrons and patterned tile on the floor were added later. The station today remains mostly unaltered from its original appearance.

The downtown depot opened on January 25, 1941. On March 8, an elaborate dedication ceremony was held, including a grand parade on University Avenue. Stanford University, California state officials and Southern Pacific participated in the event, which was also was linked with the 50th anniversary of the founding of Stanford University by Leland and Jane Stanford, one of the “Big Four” builders of the Central Pacific’s pioneer rail line.

During the ceremony , a mural by artist John MacQuarrie was unveiled. The painting tells the story of the history of transportation in California with a montage from the days of the Indians through the development of Stanford University and on to the streamlined era.

The station, one of three in Palo Alto, has the second highest passenger use along the entire Caltrain corridor. The historic depot now includes a café and a bikestation.