The Palms-Southern Pacific Railroad Depot
Heritage Square, 3800 Homer Street – map
Have you been to Heritage Square Museum?
Heritage Square Museum isn’t a museum like you’d think. It’s really a collection of Victorian buildings – a railroad depot, a church, a carriage barn, and a couple of homes (and one boxcar) – moved to the ten-acre site starting in 1969 as each was threatened with demolition. You may’ve seen Heritage Square as you’ve driven by it on the Pasadena Freeway just northeast of downtown. There are seven Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monuments on the property. The first on the declaration list is No. 22, the Palms-Southern Pacific Railroad Depot.
Known informally as “The Grasshopper Stop” when it was built by the Southern-Pacific in 1886, the Eastlake-style depot was soon renamed “the Palms” and served as a stop between the city of Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean. According to an on-site docent, it was put up at a time when the Palms area consisted of just four homes.
It served as a fairly popular stop in the 1930s and 40s what with MGM being in Culver City and all, but the depot was pretty much abandoned when the Red Car line shut down in 1953. The Boy Scouts used the building throughout the 1960s and even for a year after Globe Department Stores bought the building in 1971. It was then vacant, then condemned, sitting alone behind a furniture store on National Boulevard off Vinton Avenue. The Cultural Heritage foundation took possession of the old depot in February, 1976, for $1. It was moved to Heritage Square later that year and is now fully restored.
The Depot is the first building you hit when you walk in Heritage Square. It serves as the park’s visitor’s center and store.
The shot below is from early 1976, with the depot in its original Palms site. The balancer is Disney animator and rail aficionado Ward Kimball, who was then a member of the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society.
Photo by Bruce Cox, from the UCLA Library Digital Collections website.
As with all of the buildings in Heritage Square Museum, inside photography is forbidden. I’m not sure why that’s the case with all of these buildings, and I’m not sure if the folks at Heritage Square know, either. I’d think you’d want as many photos as possible drawing attention to all the restoration work needed on a few of the buildings’ interiors. In any event, I got one shot of the inside of the Palms Depot.
Hey! The Palms Depot was used in a few films, including a couple of Hal Roach comedies. The inside of the depot, the visitor’s center, had a few great framed pictures of Laurel and Hardy sitting outside the building in the 1929 short “Berth Marks”. If any of you Sons of the Desert members out there have copies of the stills, send ‘em in. Here’s one tiny one I found at the boys’ official website.
Gerald Faris. “Wanted: ‘Angel’ to Save Old, Broken Down Railroad Station” Los Angeles Times; December 12, 1974, p. WS18
Steve Harvey. “End of the Line? Not for the ‘Grasshopper Stop’” Los Angeles Times; February 5, 1976, p. C1
Up next: Mission San Fernando Rey de España