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Then & Now: The Southern Pacific Depot

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Public spaces change fast here in San Francisco, and for better or worse, it can be pretty crazy when you see what the City used to look like. Every week, we'll bring you Then & Now, a comparison of historic photos of the Bay Area with current views from the same perspective. Have a suggestion for a photo comparison that looks totally different (or shockingly the same)? Drop us a tip in the Curbed Inbox or leave a comment after the jump.

Quick note: See that vertical green bar in the middle of the then and now photos? You can move it horizontally to see the photos side by side.

[Then photo: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY/ Now photo: Alex Bevk] Today the southern part of SoMa is filled with startups and Giants baseball, but in the not-so-distant past rail lines dominated the neighrborhood. Originally freight lines and later passenger rail, various railroad companies had lines that traversed the southeastern part of San Francisco. One such railroad, Southern Pacific, built a passenger depot at 3rd and Townsend.

The development of rail in San Francisco is worthy of a multi-volume history, but FoundSF sums it up nicely:
As Mission Bay was gradually filled and the port of San Francisco continued to grow with more and more commerce passing through, railroads were built right up to the docks. By 1896 one of the U.S.'s most efficient systems of beltline railroads was operating between every wharf along SF's waterfront and the numerous railroad warehouses and the terminus built in Mission Bay.

Commuters on platform at Southern Pacific depot, 1953 [Photo: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY]

The Southern Pacific depot at 3rd and Townsend was built as a temporary structure to serve the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition. After the fair, the terminal continued to serve the commuters from the newly developing Peninsula suburbs. For almost 60 years it served passenger trains coming in from the San Jose lines. By the 1970's, the station building was so dilapidated that Southern Pacific decided to replace it with the existing CalTrain station one block away at 4th & Townsend. As the original depot was demolished, the site became an RV park. Today the site is home to mixed use towers with condos, built in 2001.

Wx4 has some great photos of the depot from the 1970s.
· Southern Pacific in San Francisco [Wx4]
· The Railroad Comes to SF? [FoundSF]