Historic Structures

Building Planning Bend Railroad Depot - Oregon Trunk Railway Passenger Station, Bend Oregon

Each of the depots on the Oregon Trunk followed a basic plan of providing services to passengers, freight shippers, and train crews. Accordingly, the depots consisted of a passenger station and railroad office (however modest), a freight warehouse or shed, and some accommodations for railroad personnel. Beyond these mundane requirements, the depots and especially the passenger stations were expected to make an architectural statement about the railroad and the town.

In the case of the Bend passenger station, both the railroad and the town were eager to have a building that would inspire confidence and pride. Ralph Budd's final report on building the Oregon Trunk notes that the distinctive stone depots in Bend and Redmond were built "as a result of local cooperation."

Near Bend there is a stone quarry which furnishes a pinkish colored tufaceous rock which is used more or less exclusively in that locality, and in order to have permanent depots in Bend and Redmond, each town had quarried and delivered to the depot site enough of this rock to erect a passenger station, providing the same floor space as the 30' x 115' standard depot, exclusive of the freight room. At each of these towns there is a separate frame freight house.

The account in the Bend Bulletin made it clear that the idea of a stone depot came from the Oregon Trunk, and that the railroad offered to provide plans and construction services for the passenger station if the town would provide the stone. The Bend Commercial Club agreed to provide 225 perch (24.75 cubic feet/perch) of the stone and to deliver it to the depot site. Total cost was $1.00/perch for the material and $0.50/perch for the haulage for a total cost of $337.50. The source of the tuff was the Dan Merrich quarry.

At the Railroad Day ceremony, William Hanley of Burns, Oregon, laid the cornerstone of the passenger station (Bend Bulletin, Sept. 13, 1911 ). Hanley had been a tireless promoter of Central Oregon whom Hill credited with first arousing his interest in the region.

The design of the passenger station built at Bend and its twin at Redmond incorporates many of the common elements of small town railroad station design. These include a rectangular footprint, a hipped roof with overhanging eaves, a central telegrapher's bay, a po rte cochere, and exposed structural elements including rafter tails, beams, and brackets. Any and all of these elements could be found on other passenger stations built in the West during the decades around the tum of the century. The specific combination of masonry construction and the porte cochere design, however, is limited to four examples among Oregon's passenger stations, according to architectural historian Rosalind Keeney (1994). These are the Oregon Trunk stations in Bend and Redmond, and the Southern Pacific stations in Corvallis and in Albany. The two SP stations were built in c.1910 of cast stone blocks manufactured in Corvallis. The Albany station is still in use as a passenger station, but the Corvallis station has been moved twice and is currently used as a restaurant.

The plans for the Bend passenger station were prepared on a set of six sheets dated September 21, 1911 and signed by Ralph Budd as Chief Engineer. The draftsman left the initials "Drawn by C.E.B." on the plans. These initials appear on custom plans for other passenger stations within the S.P.& S. System, including the North Portland station, and the stations at Moscow, Idaho, and Colfax, Washington. The same initials appear on designs for service structures ranging from warehouses to privies on the Oregon Trunk. Significantly, however, the initials do not appear on the standard designs for Oregon Trunk structures. Documents from the S.P. & S. archives do not reveal the identity of "C.E.B." unfortunately.

The contractor who built the depot structures was the Kerrick Construction Company of Minneapolis. This firm was active from 1902 until about 1921 according to the Minneapolis City Directories. Kerrick presumably had contracts with Hill railroads other than the Oregon Trunk during that period, but no records from the firm have been archived. The mysterious "C.E.B." could have been employed by the contractor, but again, we have no means of establishing his or her identity.

The plans for the Bend passenger station show a much more complex and ambitious structure than the standard Oregon Trunk 30' x 115' station. The Bend station has a 5" wide stone belt course that is set 4" proud of the surrounding masonry at a height of 42". This feature echoes a wooden molding on the stock plans and can be found on most Oregon trunk buildings. Below the belt course, the masonry flares out to the sill it rests upon. Over the windows and doors are large stone lintels, and the 8" x 12" bracket beam on the end under the porte cochere is set in a striking fashion on an 18" x 60" stone lintel.

Framing details of the Bend station reflect the Craftsman style and Gustav Stickley's dictum that the building should reveal its structural elements. The common rafters are 4" x 12" timbers with exposed tails extending beyond the eave line. Hip rafters are 8" x 14" timbers, and the exposed roof beam is a 12" x 16" timber with a key splice at the center. Although remodelings have covered these framing details on the interior of the building, they remain visible under the porte cochere. Framing on the stock station building offers none of these details and has the interior ceiling and the eaves closed.

The windows on the Bend passenger station were originally 20-over-1 double hung. Over the doors, 10-light transoms had mullions the same size as those in the windows. The stock station had 4-over-4 double hung windows and 3-light transoms over the doors. The Bend station was fitted with two corbeled brick chimneys for the heating stoves. The roof was designed for Spanish tile, but early photos of the building show a shingle roof. Newspaper accounts indicate that the tile roof to be too expensive. Total cost of the passenger station and its furnishings was $9,290.00.

In general, although the Bend passenger station used design elements common to other railroad stations of the period, the design of the Bend station is distinctive for the Oregon Trunk and departs in major ways from the Oregon Trunk stock designs. This design however, was typical of small town stations on the Rock Island Line between St. Louis and Kansas City. The masonry structures with a hip roof, aporte cochere, and a Spanish tile roof stations built in 1910- 1915 on the Missouri Pacific in Arkadelphia, Monticello, and Prescott, Arkansas, bear a striking resemblance to the Bend station, where John Stevens and Ralph Budd both worked early in their careers.

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the Bend and Redmond passenger stations is their construction from volcanic tuff. This indigenous stone has been widely used in Central and Eastern Oregon for commercial and institutional buildings. On the basis of present survey work throughout Oregon, it appears that the Bend and Redmond passenger stations are the only railroad structures in Oregon built of tuff. Since tuff is a significant material in eastern Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, and contributes to a distinctive regional building technology in those areas, the Oregon Trunk tuff passenger stations are noteworthy.

Tuff was formed by the consolidation of volcanic debris, especially volcanic ash. In most places the tuffwas deposited directly during volcanic events, but in some places, the consolidation may have occurred after the materials were transported by wind or water. This varied origin accounts for tuff deposits found in areas of recent volcanism on the east slope of the Cascades, in much older volcanic regions in the Blue Mountains, and in Marion County west of the Cascades. The material is generally described as light and soft, with a smooth texture, but with inclusions of other materials including obsidian. When the tuff is removed from the quarry it is soft enough to cut with steel blades; upon exposure to air, however, it loses moisture and begins to harden. The color of tuff varies from black or pink in Deschutes County to tan or cream in Grant, Baker, and Wallowa Counties.

In most applications east of the Cascades, tuffhas proved to be a sturdy and enduring building stone. In a dry climate it does not absorb moisture and consequently is not subject to spalling. Nor is it adversely affected by freeze-and-thaw cycles. On the Bend and Redmond passenger stations, however, there is some spalling on foundation courses. This may in part have resulted from salts used to thaw ice on the platform. Hart ( 1974) reports that tuff cracks under stress when used in large buildings, and that it is unsuitable for chimneys. In Bend there is no evidence of this cracking on extant buildings, including the passenger station, and tuff chimneys are still in use on many residences. During the historic period, especially the years between 1910 and 1920, tuff received a certain amount of adverse publicity, but much of this may be attributable to the efforts oflocal brick yards to discredit the rival product.

The use oftuff east of the Cascades dates from the mining period in the 1860s and 1870s, when miners familiar with stonework entered the area and began building. The oldest documented tuff building in Oregon is the Kam Wah Chung building in John Day (c.1865). This town and the neighboring town of Canyon City were among the first gold camps in the Blue Mountains. The Kam Wah Chung building was built of huge blocks of tuff measuring more than 3' on each side. The material was evidently quarried nearby, for it bears the clear marks of tooling done while it was still soft.

In 1914, the Oregon Bureau of Mines and Geology reported on the mineral resources of Oregon and included a discussion of Baker County tuff quarries and building practices. A similar report in Washington, published in 1901, mentions "tufa" as a promising volcanic product. The U.S. Geological Survey report of 1913 mentions seven active tuff quarries in southeastern Idaho. Since the 1920s, the use oftuff and other stone as a structural material has declined throughout the region. Some houses in Bend were build with tuff elements as late as the 1950s, however. Along with the harder black basaltic fieldstone, tuff remains in use as a decorative material in Central Oregon.

Tuff construction in Bend in 1911 was enjoying an efllorescence which continued through the decade and lasted until the 1920s. Landmark buildings of tuff include the Wright Hotel (1912), Reid School (1914), the Tucker Building (1919), the West Building (1911), the First Presbyterian Church (1912), and other commercial buildings on Wall and Bond Streets. Residences built of tuff at this time, including the French House (1913) and the Weist homestead (1912). When the Craftsman style became popular in Bend during the 1920s, rusticated tuff ashlar was widely used for foundation, porch, and chimney stonework. The survival of these elements, as well as complete tuff buildings, testifies to the durability ofthis material.