Cheney Free Press -



It's time to step up to save our train depot

Of Cabbages and Kings


Charles Mutschler

The Spanish Mission style railroad depot was built 1927 after persistent requests from Clarence Martin to upgrade from the original 1881 usable building.

The year 1881 was the birthdate of the first railroad depot in Cheney. It was a plain, but usable building, where flour shipments from the Martin family's mill were sent to the Spokane bakeries.

Clarence Martin, Cheney's most famous citizen, was born right here in town in 1886. He attended the Normal school up on the hill and graduated in 1903. He watched the farmers bring their grain to the mill and he watched those who came to the mill to buy the flour. Martin also watched the young students who arrived by train walk up College Avenue to their classes at Eastern Washington State College, now known as Eastern Washington University. By the 1920s, Martin knew the shabby depot, now showing its age, left a poor impression on those who came to the city of Cheney.

So Martin had an idea.

As a prominent businessman, Martin asked the Northern Pacific Railroad to please upgrade the condition of the depot. But the railroad needed to concentrate on more pressing matters such asloading cars and hauling large containers of flour to waiting customers. Another responsibility the railroad was preoccupied with was the many passengers who relied on the trains to take them to their destinations on time.

Martin knew there had to be a way to improve the situation and continued with his goal of somehow getting a better depot for Cheney. Through his persistent lobbying efforts and his influence as a successful, local businessman, he finally persuaded Northern Pacific to build a new station by pointing out that it was good business for the railroad to provide an up-to-date telegraph office to serve the college and local businesses. It would also improve communications with the railroad's headquarters.

It worked. Martin personally liked the Spanish Mission style of architecture and in 1927 the newly completed depot was built in the style especially designed for Cheney.

Martin was elected Washington State Governor in 1932 and served until 1940. How did he take care of Cheney's business as mayor and serve as our state governor at the same time? He traveled all over the state on the railroad. Let's give three cheers to Martin for his determination in the 1920s.

Now we have come to another chapter in the story of the depot. Burlington Northern- Santa Fe Railroad (formerly the Great Northern and Northern Pacific) has designated our little depot for demolition. Do we really want that to happen? There are many of us who treasure the landmarks of bygone days.

A Cheney group of such folks has adopted the name "S.O.S.," which stands for "Save Our Station." The depot, with its unique Spanish Mission-style flair is still in good condition.

There have been several suggestions of where it might find a new home and a new purpose. The depot could easily have a renewed life as a professional office or a retail shop. How about a bistro? The SOS group has requested a one-year delay to enable the community to raise funds to save the station.

Is it possible? Clarence Martin thought so in the 1920s. We thank the following citizens for their contributions to this story and their efforts to save the depot: Mr. George Li, Ms. Susan Beeman, Dr. Charles Mutschler and Ms. Joan Mamanakis.


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