Historic Amtrak Station
Taken by Ron Reiring, Jan. 2007
License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY)
"The Romanesque-style Kirkwood station was built in 1893 by the Missouri Pacific Railroad. For townspeople, it represents more than just a place to alight and depart – it is the heart of the community.
Kirkwood owes its existence to the railroad and was named for the chief engineer of the Pacific Railroad, James Pugh Kirkwood. In 1852, land was acquired from Owen Collins by the Pacific Railroad for a right-of-way and the track to Kirkwood was completed the following year. The first train pulled into Kirkwood on May 11, 1853, for an auction sale of lots. The town subsequently became the first planned suburb west of the Mississippi River.
The original station was a wood frame depot built in 1863, but it only survived for 30 years. In 1893, the Missouri Pacific Railroad hired Douglas Donovan to replace it with a more permanent stone structure. The depot exhibits many similarities to the work of famed Boston architect Richard Hobson Richardson, whose buildings were usually constructed with unfinished stone in dark red, tan, brown and gray hues. The asymmetrical compositions were pierced by deep-set, round arches reminiscent of Medieval Romanesque structures found in Europe. Constructed of random ashlar, light colored, rock-faced stone, the depot features a porte-cochere and a main entrance set within a large round arch accented by decorative voussoirs. A curved bay facing the tracks is topped by a turret with a conical roof and finial.
A train turn-table was located near the present-day Farmers Market to turn engines for the return trip to St. Louis. Freight trains frequently used helper engines to endure the “Kirkwood Hill,” prior to dieselization. Commuter trains traveled through Kirkwood until 1961.
In 2003, Amtrak discontinued agents at the Kirkwood station at the state’s request, in order to cut costs, yet the station did not remain closed for long. City administrator Mike Brown led an initiative to buy the station from the Union Pacific Railroad and then institute a pioneer management program. The city called for volunteers to staff the Amtrak station, and 199 citizens showed up to perform their civic duties.
One year later, Amtrak awarded station volunteers the 2004 President’s Service and Safety “Champion of the Rails” Award. Not only do station volunteers provide arrival and departure times, they meet and greet customers, beautify the station, host civic gatherings and parties, provide tourist information, and run a lending library for passengers. The station is run entirely by volunteers.
Today, the city is called the “Queen of the St. Louis Suburbs.” Kirkwood is often likened to Bedford Falls, the fictional town in the film, It’s a Wonderful Life, because of its stately tree-lined avenues, vibrant downtown, and historic homes. Attractions in Kirkwood include the Powder Valley Nature Center, The Magic House, downtown Kirkwood, beautiful parks, and festivals.
Amtrak does not provide ticketing or baggage services at this facility, which is served by four daily trains.
The Missouri River Runner is financed primarily through funds made available by the Missouri Department of Transportation."