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Home Texas Washington County Brenham Southern Pacific Freight Depot

Southern Pacific Freight Depot

  Texas Historical Markers
306 S. Market St., Brenham, TX, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 30° 9' 58.7268", -96° 23' 45.4668"
    Texas State
Historical Marker
    In the early 1860s, local residents built a county rail line to connect to the Houston & Texas Central Railway, which bought the line in 1869. Brenham became a regional distribution center, and its population grew dramatically. Circa 1916, the H&TC, then owned by Southern Pacific Railroad Co., built this depot. Southern Pacific maintained a presence in Brenham until 1975. The brick rectangular building retains its original brick and limestone stringcourses and Prairie School influenced corbelled pendants. Today it serves as a reminder of the town's early growth as a railroad center. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark — 2003.

This page last updated: 7/15/2008

StoppingPoints.com Editorial on Southern Pacific Freight Depot:
The Southern Pacific Railroad Freight Depot is a 2- story, red brick building with l-story freight wind along the original Houston and Texas Central Railway in south Brenham. It reflects the functional or utilitarian architecture of railroad buildings and retains its architectural integrity. The Southern Pacific Freight Depot is a 2-part, red brick building in an elongated rectangular plan on an east-west axis. It rests on a brick foundation with a built-up roof. A large asphalt parking area is located to the south along the railroad tracks; South Market Street runs along the east facade. No formal vegetation is on the property.

The 2-story easternmost part of the depot its a 2-bay square plan with a shallow metal awning surrounding approximately one foot below the brick parapet. A vertical brick stringcourse runs above the second floor windows dropping into Prairie School influenced corbelled pendants at each corner. A second stringcourse of limestone runs between the stories roughly one foot above the first floor windows; a third limestone stringcourse runs below the first floor windows. The east facade is oriented to the street with a single wooden door covered by hanging canopy in the first bay, first floor. Paired l/l double-hung wooden windows with limestone lintel highlights each remaining bay on the north, south, and east facades.

One exception is the enclosure of a former loading door in the first floor, first bay on the south facade.

The 1-story westernmost part of the depot consists of five large wooden overhead doors with limestone lintels on the north and south facades. Simple pilasters adorn the facades. A l-story frame storage facility existed to the west of this part but was removed at an unknown time.

This building is privately owned and in good condition. It was recently renovated and is currently in use as office space.

The Southern Pacific Railroad Freight Depot (c. 1915) is eligible under Criterion A and significant in the area of transportation for its role in linking the Brenham area to a broader market for local goods. It also is eligible under Criterion C and significant for representing a functional approach to architecture by providing simple office space and spacious loading areas. The depot is associated with the local context Community Development and Regional Expansion, 1870-1941 and is one of two properties remaining with an association to the railroads.


The Houston and Texas Central Railway was chartered as the Galveston and Red River Railway Company in 1848 to run from Galveston north to the Red River. The charter was amended in 1856-to give-the road the benefit of the General Land Grant Law of 1854 entitling it to 16 sections of land per mile and changing the name to the H&TC Railway Company. Before the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, construction reached Hempstead and branched north to Millican, near Bryan. Original plans had called for a branch line to continue west through Washington County to Austin; the charter was amended and plans for the branch line were dropped. The Washington County Railroad Company, chartered in 1856, completed the road from Hempstead to Brenham by 1861, leaving Brenham the western terminus until after the Civil War. In 1871 the H&TC Railway bought this line and extended it to Austin, linking Brenham with the state capital.

Because Brenham was at the junction of two major railroad lines, the H&TC and the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway, it attracted shipments into and out of the area making it an important center of commerce and transportation activity in Central Texas, which in turn greatly contributed to commercial and residential construction. A joint passenger depot with the H&TC Railway was constructed in August 1906 at joint expense. It was west of this depot on South Austin Street; it was demolished in the 1940s. The Washington County Chamber of Commerce is currently located on the site. (See context statement for more discussion.)


The Southern Pacific Depot is a functional and utilitarian form of architecture designed to accommodate frequent usage with minimal obstruction. Large open loading spaces were built to allow goods to be delivered by rail on the north side and then temporarily stored before loading onto trucks on the south side. Office and administrative spaces were limited but conveniently located so that employees could oversee loading activities and handle paperwork. Few embellishments adorn the facade or highlight the site.

This property is almost identical in plan and similar in its boxy configuration to the freight depot of the competing railway, Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway located on South Austin Street.

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Southern Pacific Freight Depot Historical Marker Location Map, Brenham, Texas

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