During its post-Civil War rebuilding, one of Lawrence’s main goals was to establish itself as the railroad hub of the Midwest. In 1882, Union Pacific spent $40,000 buying lots in North Lawrence and announced that it would build a new passenger depot. The 1889 building design blends proportions and forms of French Vernacular architecture with the robust masonry exterior of the Richardsonian Romanesque.
For townspeople, the depot instantly became the hub of community activity. It was the point of departure and return for soldiers during World War I and World War II. The years took their toll on the depot in the 1920s and discontinued freight service in 1984. Plans to tear the depot down were aggressively campaigned with UP and the City of Lawrence, who wanted to restore the structure. The restoration of Lawrence’s Union Pacific Depot in 1991 symbolizes the community’s commitment to preserving historical sites.
In 1996, the depot opened as the Lawrence Visitor Information Center and public meeting facility, operated by the Lawrence Convention & Visitors Bureau. The center distributes information to visitors about Lawrence attractions, accommodations and special events. The Center shows a 27-minute docudrama called “Lawrence: Free State Fortress.” The 1998 Kan Film Festival “Best Film” chronicles the first 10 years of Lawrence’s history and culminates with Quantrill’s Raid of the city in 1863. The film is shown on weekends every hour, on the hour, and weekdays by request. There is no admission charge, and copies of the film are available for purchase.