Historic Amtrak Station
"Art Moderne references such as large expanses of glass block and a gleaming aluminum marquee and canopy give the impression that the MP depot was built in the mid-20th century. At the time, stepped rectilinear compositions were still quite popular among American architects, although they were soon to fade in favor of the uniform steel and glass grids promoted by designers searching for an “International Style.” Surprisingly, the MP depot was constructed in 1886, but underwent a drastic remodeling in 1951 that sheared off the second floor, reconstructed the ground floor, added new space, and completely did away with any traces of the station’s Queen Anne past.
The reconfigured one-story, red brick MP depot stretches along the tracks and is divided into three distinct parts: a pavilion flanked by two wings. Projecting a few feet beyond the standard north and south elevations, the pavilion visually anchors the architectural composition. The east wing was the freight and baggage room, as indicated by the broad door openings that allowed large crates and parcels to be wheeled into and out of the storeroom. Most of the wall openings display small pivoting windows surrounded by glass block, an arrangement that lets in light while maintaining security. On the west side of the pavilion, a much longer wing features an aluminum faced canopy that protects passengers from inclement weather as they wait outside for the train. Large tripartite windows allowed ample sunlight to enter the waiting rooms.
The industrial streamlined architecture that was popular in the United States from the 1920s to the 1950s often emphasized straight, clean lines and simple surfaces in which the materials themselves—shiny aluminum, glossy glass block—were the main decorative elements. The horizontal nature of the depot is reinforced by the stone watertable and belt course and the concrete parapet that wrap around the building; the canopy takes the place of the belt course along the passenger platform and adds another texture to the structure’s surface. Along the parapet, low concrete pediments mark the locations of the principle entry ways, and the wall surface below each one is marked by the vibrant red and white buzz saw logo of the MP.
The station closed in the 1970s and entered a period of deferred maintenance that threatened its structural integrity. In 1998, Sedalia Downtown Development, Inc (SDDI), a non-profit organization focused on downtown revitalization, began to plan for the transformation of the depot into a multi-modal transportation center accommodating trains, busses, taxis, and bike and car rentals. Two years later, SDDI purchased the building from the Union Pacific Railroad, which had merged with and subsumed the MP in the 1980s.
SDDI and city officials believe that the improved station will draw new investment to Sedalia’s north side. OATS, a regional public transportation service, contributed $137,000 in SAFETEA-LU funds towards the renovation in order to relocate its offices to the western wing, while SDDI occupies space in the pavilion. The new Amtrak waiting room, located in the former baggage/freight area, opened to passengers in May 2011 at a ceremony attended by Sedalia Mayor Elaine Horn, SDDI Director Meg Liston, and representatives of Amtrak, the Missouri Department of Transportation, and Septagon Construction, the company involved in the rehabilitation work.
The improved passenger waiting room, lighted by windows on three sides, is bright and welcoming. Outside, it is marked by a bold new metal and glass canopy over the entrance that protects riders from the rain and snow. Where the canopy is anchored to the ground, the supporting pylons frame a long bench consisting of wood slats laid over a concrete base. One pylon graphically spells out “Amtrak” in large letters running down its side, much like the streamlined letters along the canopy and a few of the brick facades that read “Sedalia.”
The $2 million project was split into two components that were carried out over a decade. The first phase concentrated on bringing the building to a state of good repair to avoid further damage from threats such as water infiltration. $280,000 was raised to repair the roof and brick walls, as well as replace the glass blocks in the east wing. Phase two was devoted to the completion of interior renovations for office and public use, exterior landscaping, construction of a roadway bike path to connect the depot with the Katy Trail, and the design and creation of a small park dedicated to Sedalia’s founder and the ways that the railroads have impacted the town’s development.
U.S. Representative Ike Skelton helped direct $550,000 in federal transit monies to the project. The majority of the funding for the transportation center was obtained through state and federal programs and grants: $540,000 through the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts and Small Starts program; $212,000 from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program; and $250,000 through the Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation Enhancement Act program.
In addition, the Sedalia Central Business and Cultural District provided $20,000 and the city’s Public Works Department supplied $60,000 in in-kind labor including excavation and filling work. Through personal donations and fund-raisers such as community dinners, SDDI obtained $30,000 from area residents, truly demonstrating community backing for the transportation center. In the spring of 2010, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Amtrak was able to devote $160,000 in Mobility First funds towards the construction of a new concrete platform with a tactile edge. It is well illuminated by street lights similar to those found in downtown."