Palo Alto Southern Pacific Station

Waiting room and mural by John McQuarrie Photograph by Judith Silva, courtesy of the City of Santa

Quick Facts

95 University Ave.

The Palo Alto Southern Pacific Station is an excellent example of the Streamline Moderne style which has important connections with American social history, and which is not typically found in Palo Alto. During the 1920s and 1930s most of the significant buildings in town were designed by a single dominant and exceptionally talented local architect, Birge Clark, who worked almost exclusively in the Mission Revival or Spanish Colonial Revival styles. Consequently, the other major buildings of that era, such as large commercial blocks and apartment buildings, the main Post Office, the Community Center and other civic buildings were built in the Mission Revival or Spanish Colonial Revival styles. On October 22, 1940, the cornerstone was laid for the new railroad station which was most likely designed by a full-time architect employed by Southern Pacific. The new station replaced the one built in 1897. 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. The station interior is consists of the ticket office, waiting room, rest rooms, baggage room and a passageway between the waiting room and baggage room.

The interior of the building features a mural by John McQuarrie. Its central theme is Leland Stanford's dream of a University influenced by a pageant of transportation. The mural depicts facts and events of significance and influence historically expressed in the development of California. 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. Refurbished in the early 1980s, the Palo Alto station has become a regional transit center serving Santa Clara County and San Mateo County transit bus passengers as well as CalTrain commuters.

Last updated: January 30, 2018