In the early 1880’s the railroad was finally completed through Flagstaff and though it wasn’t in the original plans they decided to make Flagstaff an official stop on the line. This simple act helped solidify Flagstaff as a permanent settlement during a time when its future wasn’t so clear. Today we are making our second stop on the downtown Flagstaff tour to highlight the 1889 Santa Fe Train Depot building. So let’s get started!
The Railroad Comes Through Town
When the railroad finally started construction on the line from Albuquerque, NM to the California coast, Flagstaff was not a planned stop. They were only planning on setting up depots in Williams to the west and Winslow to the east, and it would be thanks to a number of small factors adding up that would convince the railroad that Flagstaff was a prime spot for a depot. One of the first of these factors was the resilience and the fortitude of the first settlers to come because of the railroad as well as the already existing population of sheep ranchers. The second factor was the unexpected 6 month delay of construction and Canyon Diablo, which provided the new tent camp of Flagstaff to deepen its roots. And a third major factor was the large Ponderosa pine forest and the new opportunities that milling in the area would provide.
The 1889 Santa Fe Train Depot
So, when on August 1, 1882 the railroad was completed through Flagstaff they made it an official stop on the line and the first depot was located in three box cars just across the tracks from the 1889 depot. After the boxcars came a the infamous log structures that we know almost always burned down, and after the wooden depot inevitable did just that the railroad finally decided to build this stone structure. The building has been restored to near its original state and it’s as much a very simple and utilitarian design today as it ever was. However, it holds a whole heap of local charm nonetheless. The structure was built using local Moenkopi Sandstone and it was heavily used during Flagstaffs first few formative decades.
The building is stilled owned by the BNSF railroad and is used for storage and for other maintenance purposes, but we can still visit and walk around the building and perhaps we can imagine just for moment that we are stepping off a train in mid summer 1889, and as you stretch your legs you glance about and your eyes adjust to the scene. The railroad depot sits in front of you with its bright reddish pink sandstone walls and beyond you see a main stretch of dirt road with horse drawn buggies bustling by and finally you notice a spattering of wood structures and the occasion building of stone or brick. In many ways, the downtown Flagstaff of 1889 looked very much like the downtown of today.
The next stop on our tour should be Old Two Spot just next door here, but we already have a full length article on this topic. You can check it out HERE.
So the real next stop on our downtown Flagstaff tour will take us just across Route 66 to the oldest building in downtown as well as its two adjacent neighbors known as the Brannen Buildings. If you’d like to be notified when the next stop is available subscribe to our channel on YouTube and don’t forget to also hit the notification bell.
I hope you have enjoyed this episode and until next time, keep exploring my friends!