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The Tecate Depot: Cultural Heritage of the Californias

By María Castillo-Curry

The Tecate Railroad Depot, located in Baja California, may be eligible for inclusion in the US National Register of Historic Places because it bears significance to American history, architecture, engineering, and culture. It already meets some of the criteria as a state monument in Baja California due to its historic significance (more than 50 years old). It is also listed in the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia catalog of monuments.

The Tecate depot has a distinctive Prairie style Craftsman design, and is the most magnificent example of railroad architecture on the San Diego and Arizona and Tijuana and Tecate lines. It manifests the importance given to Tecate at the beginning of the twentieth century by John D. Spreckels. The line marked the development of business and industry in Baja California and the depot has an enormous potential for providing crucial information on railroad architecture history in the Californias.

According to SOHO board member, historian Kathy Flanigan, architect Eugene Hoffman could have built this beautiful and unique Craftsman style building for John D, Spreckels as part of the original San Diego & Arizona's Mexican section in 1914. The Tijuana-Tecate line, as well as the depot, was built with the same technology as the rest of the SD&A railroad. Both are associated with the historical development of industry, transportation, urban settlements, community life and cultural tourism in the border region.

The 1996 Revision of the National Park Service's Thematic Framework seeks to express the full diversity of American history; one of its eight categories includes the "changing role of the United States in the world community." This theme explores diplomacy, trade, cultural exchange, security and defense, expansionism, and at times, imperialism. The emphasis of this category is on people and institutions, and border heritage corridors could well fit the theme if we approach preservation with a regional vision.

Architect Wayne Donaldson, in an inspection of the depot performed on March 24, together with SOHO board members, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte and the San Diego Railroad Museum, assessed the level of historical integrity of the building to be as high as it is, due to approximately ninety percent of all the original fabric, although vandalized, is intact. He stated that window sashes, doors, and other wood trim pieces that are missing can easily be reconstructed using extant models throughout the depot.

The depot has been placed again on SOHO's 11 most endangered list for 2001 since the expansion of the Tecate Brewery, which owes its existence to the railroad, has invaded the station yards with the construction of a 10 foot concrete wall blocking the traditional views that characterized the site for almost a century. In addition to this, the Municipality of Tecate is considering a development project. The details of this project have not been disclosed and have not been subjected to any design review by the Instituto de Cultura de Baja California (ICBC), the state institution in charge of protecting cultural resources.

Meanwhile the SDRM, SOHO and COLEF are applying for research grants in order to establish a binational heritage corridor project for the railroad similar to Los Caminos del Rio, El Camino Real Misionero and El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro in an attempt to influence the ICBC to do the right thing in preserving this treasure. In the last SDRM board meeting, the Board of Trustees approved the proposition to adopt the SD&A and the T&T as a binational corridor and promote its preservation.

For more information, please contact SOHO.

2001 - Volume 32, Issue 2

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