1902 Dickinson Railroad Depot
The Dickinson Depot sat along the railroad tracks not far from Hwy. 3 and FM 517 East. The Depot was part of the Galveston, Houston, and Henderson (G.H. & H.) Railroad Line, which was one of the earliest railroads in Texas. Chartered in 1853 the G.H&H was one of the oldest lines in Texas to retain its original charter name and the first railroad to reach the Texas Gulf Coast. The line gained financial stability in 1882, under the ownership and empire of Jay Gould.
The original Dickinson Depot was built in 1859, and later burned in 1900. A new Depot was designed and built in 1902 by architect George B. Stowe, a prominent Galveston architect. More elaborate than the other depots along the line, Stowe’s design called for a red brick mantle fireplace, double half-moon doors, and a bay window overlooking the tracks.
Through the doors of this beautiful Victorian-styled structure traveled thousands of visitors to the Dickinson, Galveston, and Houston area. Many of the visitors spent their days at the picnic grounds, racetrack, and various Dickinson events. It is no wonder that this Depot helped to name the town of Dickinson. Situated on property of once owned by John Dickinson, one of Stephen F. Austin’s original “Old Three Hundred” settlers, the station came to be known as the “Dickinson Station” so many of the travelers came to know and enjoy the area as “Dickinson,” even though several other names were tried in identifying the region.
For these many reasons, the Weed N Wish Garden Club members came to love, and later own, the Dickinson Depot. They could not allow the little depot, which had been so significant in developing our city, to be destroyed.
They took it upon themselves to restore, renovate, and maintain the Dickinson Station as an area community center and museum. At a time when there existed no City government, the Garden Club ladies raised the money necessary to move and restore the Dickinson depot. Only a short time into the fundraising and restoration work, the Garden Club members were offered the League City Depot. Knowing its importance to the area; as well as the state, the ladies decided to add to their fundraising burden and save the League City Depot, as well.
For many years, these ladies provided a fabulous community center and museum to visitors and residents, but the expense and hardship of maintaining the buildings became too much for the Garden Club, and it was donated to the City of Dickinson. Understanding the significance of the two depots to our state and town, the City of Dickinson aided in forming the Dickinson Historical Society. The Society took on the task fundraising and restoring the depots, with the assistance of the City: Dickinson Economic Development Corporation, TXDOT, Texas Historical Commission, and many other supporters. Today stands the Dickinson Historic Railroad Center, a community meeting facility, visitor center, museum, gift shop, bicycle rest stop, and offices for the Dickinson Historical Society, as well as the Dickinson Economic Development Corporation.
Relocation & Restoration
From the Archives:
A new depot was built for League City in 1896. With the growing number of people flocking to the Dickinson Picnic Grounds since the Texas Coast Fair of 1895, the Dickinson Depot had become too small. A new suburban depot was constructed in Dickinson under the direction of J.H. Hill, General Manager and Superintendent of the line.
A telegram dated January 31, 1900, from Mr. Hill to F.P. Olcott, President of the GH&H, read, “Depot at Dickinson burned yesterday.” Mr. Hill sent a brief reply, “Rebuild depot.”
While planning for the replacement depot was underway, a baggage car was placed on a siding to serve as a temporary depot. Then on September 8, 1900, the Great Hurricane struck the upper Gulf Coast. The station agent, Charles Dibrell, spent that terrible night in the baggage car.
The hurricane caused so much destruction that work on the depot was delayed. It was not until the fall of 1901 that bids were received from contractors for building the depot and platforms according to the plans and specifications furnished by Galveston architect George Stowe.
By the winter of 1901, the depot building was taking shape. The building, painted in the standard station color Nile green, featured the only cupola on the line, a slate roof and red brick foundation.
The finished station was the finest on the line. There were two large waiting rooms, each with two sets of half-moon doors and windows. The white waiting room boasted an elegant ornamental fireplace and mantle. The agent’s office was situated between the two waiting rooms with a ticket window at each side of the office.
Notice how the roof has wide overhangs that shield the platform on all sides of the building. The interior space is light and airy. The high ceilings aid in ventilating the building. The doors and windows open to take advantage of the coastal breezes making the depot as comfortable as possible in the long humid summers.
Architect George B. Stowe
Galveston architect George B. Stowe was commissioned to design the new Dickinson Depot. He was born in the 1850s. He began his practice in Galveston in the 1880s and, by the 1890s, was a prominent architect. The Stowe family was part of Galveston’s social elite. He designed many houses that still remain Galveston landmarks.
Depot on the move
The Dickinson Depot was donated to the Weed N’ Wish Garden Club by the GH&H Railroad in the late 1960s and had to be moved to this site over the Dickinson Bayou bridge.