Tuesday, May 8, 2007

No. 22 - The Palms-Southern Pacific Railroad Depot

Palms Depot

The Palms-Southern Pacific Railroad Depot
Heritage Square, 3800 Homer Street – map
Declared: 8/9/63

Have you been to Heritage Square Museum?

Palms Depot

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.

Palms 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.

Palms Depot

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.

Palms Depot

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.

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.

Palms Depot


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


gc said...

Yet another one to add to my list. I always wondered about the cool old buildings off the Pasadena freeway. Many thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hi Floyd:

I wanted to let you know that the museum is hosting a fundraiser August 25 to raise money to continue the restoration of these beautiful structures.

As you can imagine, just the upkeep on eight historic structures can be daunting, which is why we really need the community's support on this one. Anyone interested can visit the website at www.heritagesquare.org or www.kearth101.com and click on August 25 for more information.

Oh, and thanks for the great photos from all over this wonderful City of ours.

All the best,

Brian Sheridan
Director of Development
Heritage Square Museum

Anonymous said...

"Grasshopper stop" is a railroad term for the siding where a train could lay over while another scooted by in the opposite direction. The Santa Monica Air Line had only one track on the Palms stretch (and still does), so there had to be such stops along the line so the trains wouldn't smack into each other. It had nothing to do with grasshoppers. See
http://www.ulwaf.com/Palms/photolist.html or
for more.

Unknown said...

George Garrigues:

Actually what you said is entirely incorrect. Grasshopper is the original name for the Palms Station, before it was named Palms Depot. The Station was renamed Palms Depot in the early 1900s, when Palms was established. In the lates 1800s, before Palms was established, the southern Westside today was a huge ranch then, called Rancho La Ballona, and the Grasshopper Station was named such because the station site was covered with clouds of actual grasshoppers on those days. (Source: LA Times article March 4, 1928.)

George Garrigues said...

Hi, all. N.S. Guzman wrote his L.A. Times article in 1928 about the Palms station in 1876 — 52 years earlier. I doubt he was even alive then, and I believe he was just repeating a legend he had heard. The original name for the Palms depot, anyway, was Bay View station, according to Palms historian David Worsfold, writing in 1960. Anyway, what happened to all the grasshoppers, if grasshoppers were indeed endemic to West L.A. in the 1870s?

Floyd B. Bariscale said...

Thanks, George. I hope the book is a success for you.

Anonymous said...

My uncle was friendly with Ward Kimball. When I was a kid we went over to Ward's home where he had a miniature railroad in his backyard.