Historic train depot up for sale

/Volumes/razmataz/Desktop/       TRN 032509/ TRN Record Photos/OrangeTrainDepot0879

It’s hard to imagine now, but at one time trees and green fields surrounded the old train depot off Green Avenue. There were no stores, businesses, traffic lights or asphalt streets.

The building has been privately owned for many years, and it is now up for sale through American Real Estate, sparking conversation in restaurants and cafes as to its next venture.

 Not much is known about the building, although it most likely had a ticket office, a refreshment stand and other amenities for travelers. Orange journalist A.F. Burns, writing in 1936, described a typical turn-of-the-century day about another depot in Orange.

“Dick Johnson, a former sheriff, recalled that great crowds met at the old depot on Front and Second Street every other evening at about 7 o’clock to see the mixed train come in from Houston, with its passengers and freight. The smoking and puffing locomotive left the following morning around 7.”

A spokeswoman at American Real Estate could not confirm the asking price, the depot’s owner or other details. Another real estate source who asked not to be identified said the building had been on the market since July, 2008, and was listed at $199,900, marked down from $299,900.

The Green Avenue depot is believed to have been built around 1910, and is eligible for listing by the National Register of Historic Places. In a recent meeting of the Orange County Historical Commission, a suggestion was briefly discussed about buying the depot, however was thought that money matters would most likely prove difficult for the nonprofit organization. The depot does not have an historical marker.

According to Dr. Howard C. Williams, Historical Commission chairman, three early rail lines gave Orange solid connections with the entire U.S., including most ports on the Gulf.

In his book “Gateway to Texas: The Orange County History,” he writes that the most successful (and most important economically to Orange) was the Southern Pacific line. In 1859, the Sabine and Galveston Bay Railroad was renamed the Texas and New Orleans. Line president A.M. Gentry gave the order to build a line from Houston to the Sabine River at Echo. 

It began operation in 1861, intending to continue into Louisiana at some point, but postponed by the war. The line carried troops and was guarded by Confederate soldiers. After the war, the company went bankrupt. Eastern businessmen rescued the line and it again made Houston to Orange journeys by 1876. Two years later, Charles Morgan extended his lines in New Orleans to Lafayette, La., and ultimately to Orange. 

A few years later, California railroad man C.P. Huntington, for which several cities are named including Huntington Beach, bought the Texas and New Orleans; which in effect became part of Huntington’s Southern Pacific. He now had a line that could run from San Francisco to New Orleans.

The Union Pacific line, still operating in Orange, started as a subsidiary as Missouri Pacific with a tram line that ran parallel to Texas 62 from the river sawmills to Mauriceville and Buna, and later to Newton. 

It had a depot where the Sabine River met Division Avenue, the future site of the Jack Tar Hotel and later Orange House retirement center. Another line, the Kansas City Southern, was completed through Orange in 1897. It was never a dock railroad but had stops in Vidor, Mauriceville and Lemonville; and extended to Shreveport, La., and Kansas City.