Santa Fe Freight Depot Rededication

By Mark J. Redmond

In 1929 the Santa Fe Railroad opened a new freight depot in Phoenix at 5th Avenue and Jackson Street. By the mid 1960's times were changing and the freight business in the Phoenix area changed too. Santa Fe closed the depot in favor of a regional center. The depot sat and rotted internally for the next 30+ years. Finally in 1999 Maricopa County purchased the building. Used to store files and old equipment, the building was really not being used well. It was a dark and dangerous place. A debate arose as to the fate of the building. Tear it down or find a use for it.

This time our elected officials got it right and decided to save the building. Fate stepped in as Maricopa County Assessor Keith E. Russell wanted to save the County money by consolidating satellite offices into one office downtown. In 2010 a plan was made to convert the old freight depot into offices for the County Assessor. Eleven (11) months later at a cost of about $4 million dollars the Assessors new offices were completed. With the closing of the satellite offices, the building will pay for itself in about five years.

The completion of this building is a proud day for all who live in Arizona. The Santa Fe Freight Depot is one of two remaining poured concrete freight buildings in the country and is truly an Arizona landmark. As you will see in the pictures below, a wonderful transformation was done.

The Arizona Railway Museum was contacted by Tim Boncoskey, Chief Deputy Assessor, and Dick Carr, Capital Facilities Manager for Maricopa County in October 2010 for assistance in helping to set up the decor inside the building. The Board of Directors unanimously approved the project and museum curator Steve Whisel took on the roll of coordinating with the Assessors office to find appropriate artifacts to display.

Steve did not work alone in this task. Bart Barton assisted Steve in finding artifacts and helping to refurbish them for display. An agreement was signed by both the Museum and Assessors office regarding display and ownership of the artifacts on display. Many items were copied so they could be displayed. In the visitors lobby there is a large display about the Arizona Railway Museum and is functions. There is also a small display case which will house rotating artifacts.

This was no small effort by the County to renovate this building. Tons of asbestos insulation, dirt, surplus property and drug paraphernalia waste had to be removed before work could even start. The tunnel that brought ice from the Ice House across the street to cool produce before air conditioning was still in place and was used for sewage pipes and other utility routing. The floors were uneven and had to be re-leveled. Emphases was made on keeping the original theme and looks to the building but also make it "state of the art" for the environment and people using the building.

In March the County Assessors Office moved in and on June 28, 2011 a rededication ceremony officially opening the building was held. Officials from other county departments, Arizona Railway Board members and its general membership along with others involved with the building were invited to the open house and ceremony. Steve Whisel was one of the speakers at the ceremony.

The County did an outstanding job on the building. The freight doors on the north side of the building where trucks would load goods were removed and large windows put in their place. On the inside it looks like a modern building but on the outside, you can still see where the doors would have gone. The natural light from the windows not only give the employees the view of the city but also bring in huge amounts of light that will reduce the electricity needed to light up the work space. There are two working crossing lights (theyonly manually blink) that really add to the atmosphere in the building and the artifacts throughout add a nostalgic touch. In talking to the employees, many of whom did not know at first I was with the museum, commented on how much they loved the building and the decor that had been done. Some had brought their own train items to place in their cubes or windows. It was a huge hit and other County departments were a bit envious of their new office space. We should all be proud of the job that was done.

The before pictures are courtesy of Maricopa County.

Here is a picture of the depot from 1988.

The street side with the roll up doors for trucks.

The building emptied ready for construction.

The bathrooms.


A very dark space.

How it was being used.

The construction pictures are courtesy of Maricopa County.

Down come some walls.

Leveling the floor.

Stairs to the upstairs conference room.

More work on the floors.

A copy of the Santa Fe logo is put in place.

Artifacts from the Arizona Railway Museum.

Outside of the building.

A lot of flooring work was done.

The tile flooring is the original.

Here are pictures of the building after renovation but before move in.

Pictures are courtesy of Maricopa County.

The lunch/break area.

The spacious cubes.

Another view of the cube area.

Here are pictures of the building after renovation and during the re-dedication.

The freight depot on dedication day.

Even had a red carpet.

The Santa Fe logo in place.

Pictures adorn the stairs to the cube area.

Stairs to the upper conference room.

Cross buck and lights fill the room with great atmosphere.

Employees are getting into the spirit of the building.

Wall decor.

The artifact display case near the visitor entrance.

The museums traveling display was set up for the event.

At the visitor entrance is a nice information poster about the museum.

Master of Ceremonies Richard de Uriarte.

County Assessor Keith E. Russell, MAI.

Museum Curator Steve Whisel speaks at the dedication.

Board members Andy Szabo, George Barker and Mark J. Redmond watch the ceremony.

Lots of Santa Fe pictures through out the building.

Along the back wall are copies of museum artifacts.

I am told these pictures are easily seen from the street at night.

More employees getting into the train spirit.

The finished bathroom. The floor tile is the original and the wall tiles were purchased to match

Plaques on the outside walls commemorate the rededication.

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