Originally the social and commercial center of many communities in the United States was the town square, but the invention of telegraph, and its spread across America in the late 1840s and 50s brought the railroad depot into the forefront. The railroad station became the center of the community. It was the point of contact between the railroad and the public. To the railroad, the depot was a statement of its wealth and power. To the community, the depot was a visitor’s first impression of the community’s prosperity and importance. And if you wanted to hear news about the outside world, the depot was the place to be. The depot agent, the person who managed each depot, was often a well-respected member of the community.
Depots have an architectural style all to themselves. They come in different sizes, but basically, they were all working structures and all served to expeditiously move passengers and freight. While somewhat removed from their previous role, today, railroad depots are once again emerging as community centerpieces. After years of neglect, the buildings are being reclaimed, and now enjoy new lives as retail centers, museums, and even transportation centers.
The east entrance to the Santa Fe Depot in Osage City, exhibits the definitive southwest design motif, recalling in the depot’s design the southwest’s influence on many of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Depots. Located on its original site, adjacent to the Santa Fe Tracks in downtown Osage City, the historic depot listed on the National Register of Historic Places, still receives passengers one weekend a year as passenger trains arrive from the Labor Day Weekend Railroad Days Celebration in Topeka, Kansas.
The Museum offers interesting artifacts concerning the railroad.