When it was built, the AT&SF Railway Depot signaled Las Vegas’s importance as a railroad division point and thriving mercantile center.
Designed by an in-house architect, the depot is in the California Mission style that had been adopted by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad as a defining image of the Southwest. The one-story brick building, 112 x 32 feet, is topped by a terra-cotta and tin-tiled roof with overhanging, bracketed eaves. Its deep brick arches and central pavilion with a curvilinear gable bearing the AT&SF logo reiterates the Mission style design of the adjacent and contemporaneous Castañeda Hotel, designed by California architect Frederic Louis Roehrig. At the same time, as Kathleen Ann Brooker has noted, the depot’s hipped roof, overhanging eaves and wrought iron brackets refer as much to H.H. Richardson’s train stations on the East Coast as to the Mission style.
Between the arrival of railroad in 1879 and the construction of the Belen cut-off in 1906, Las Vegas reached its height as a trade center and became one of the largest and most prosperous cities in the Southwest, centrally located along the main east-west route of the AT&SF Railroad. Both the Depot and Castañeda Hotel contributed to the shift of commercial activity in Las Vegas, away from the Old Town Plaza to the thriving East Las Vegas that developed around the railroad. Once the Belen cut-off diverted rail traffic around Las Vegas, the city entered a period of economic decline.
The resulting stagnation stopped extensive new development in Las Vegas, yet also preserved much of the city’s historic fabric. The Depot was restored in the early 2000s. It is open to the public as a visitors’ center, and continues to operate as a train station.
Amtrak. “Las Vegas, NM (LSV).” Great American Stations. Accessed June 17, 2015. https://amtrak.com.
Brooker, Kathleen Ann. “Railroad Depots in New Mexico: Southwestern Styles and the Masonry Tradition.” Master's thesis, University of New Mexico, 1981.
Gebhard, David. “Architectural Imagery, the Mission, and California.” Harvard Architecture Review 1 (Spring 1980): 137-145.
Stiny, Andy. “New Owner Shows off Historic Las Vegas, NM Hotel.” Albuquerque Journal, April 21, 2014.
Threinen, Ellen. Architecture and Preservation in Las Vegas: A Study of Six Districts. Las Vegas: Design Review Board, City of Las Vegas, New Mexico, 1977.
Threinen, Ellen. “Railroad Avenue Historic District,” New Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties Inventory-Nomination Form. Santa Fe, NM, New Mexico Historic Preservation Division, 1979.
Wilson, Chris (with Anita Vernon and Hilario Romero). Architecture and Preservation in Las Vegas, Volume II: New Districts, New Developments. Las Vegas: Design Review Board, City of Las Vegas, New Mexico, 1982.
Wilson, Chris (with Elmo Baca, Tamara Coombs, Anita Vernon, Sven Govaars and Dick Hughes). Architecture and Preservation in Las Vegas, Volume III: Historic Resources Nomination. Las Vegas: Design Review Board, City of Las Vegas, New Mexico, 1984.