The Santa Fe Railroad Building (13 stories) at 900 South Polk in Amarillo was built in 1930 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The building has been called “the beacon” or the “Jewel of the Texas Panhandle” for the four large neon “Santa Fe” signs on its roof that shown brightly over the city for many years.
Potter County bought the building and renovated it in the 1990s, with the famous “Santa Fe” signs repaired in 2003. The building now houses government offices.
The old Santa Fe Railroad building in Amarillo, Texas
National Register of Historic Places
Santa Fe Building (added 1996 - Building - #96000939)
900 S. Polk St., Amarillo
Historic Significance: Architecture/Engineering, Event
Architect, builder, or engineer: Brennan Construction Company, Harrison, E.A.
Architectural Style: Late Gothic Revival
Area of Significance: Architecture, Transportation
Period of Significance: 1925-1949
Owner: Local Gov’t
Historic Function: Commerce/Trade
Historic Sub-function: Business
Current Function: Work In Progress
Wikipedia: Atchison, Topeka and Sanata Fe Railway
The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (AAR reporting marks ATSF), often abbreviated as Santa Fe, was one of the larger railroads in the United States. The company was first chartered in February 1859. Although the railway was named in part for the capital of New Mexico, its main line never reached there as the terrain made it too difficult to lay the necessary tracks (Santa Fe was ultimately served by a branch line from Lamy, New Mexico). The Santa Fe’s first tracks reached the Kansas/Colorado state line in 1873, and connected to Pueblo, Colorado in 1876. In order to help fuel the railroad’s profitability, the Santa Fe set up real estate offices and sold farm land from the land grants that the railroad was awarded by Congress; these new farms would create a demand for transportation (both freight and passenger service) that was, quite conveniently, offered by the Santa Fe.
Ever the innovator, Santa Fe was one of the pioneers in intermodal freight service, an enterprise that (at one time or another) included a tugboat fleet and an airline, the short-lived Santa Fe Skyway. A bus line allowed the company to extend passenger transportation service to areas not accessible by rail, and ferry boats on the San Francisco Bay allowed travellers to complete their westward journeys all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway officially ceased operations on December 31, 1996 when it merged with the Burlington Northern Railroad to form the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway.
Regular revenue trains
The Santa Fe operated the following named trains on regular schedules:
Eastern Express: Lubbock, Texas — Amarillo, Texas (this was the eastbound version of the West Texas Express).
Fargo Fast Mail/Express: Belen, New Mexico — Amarillo, Texas — Kansas City, Missouri — Chicago, Illinois
The Missionary: San Francisco, California — Belen, New Mexico — Amarillo, Texas — Kansas City, Missouri — Chicago, Illinois
Santa Fe Eight: Belen, New Mexico — Amarillo, Texas — Kansas City, Missouri — Chicago, Illinois
West Texas Express: Amarillo, Texas — Lubbock, Texas (this was the westbound version of the Eastern Express).
Route 66: Images of America’s Main Street
by William Kaszynski
Jefferson, NC: McFarland
Opposite: Santa Fe Railroad Building, Amarillo (1930). Appropriately called the “Jewel of the Texas Panhandle,” the Santa Fe Railroad building was designed by E. A. Harrison in the art deco style of the period and built at a cost of $1.5 million, a hefty sum in those days. The 13-story structure’s exterior is covered in glazed terra cotta, and it was designed to allow for the addition of three extra floors. Four giant red “Santa Fe” signs at the top of the building symbolized the strength of the mighty railroad as it served neighboring states in four directions from Amarillo. The building escaped demolition in the 1990s thanks to local citizens and preservationists and is on the national and state registries of historic buildings.
Amarillo (TX) Globe-News
Web-posted Friday, December 26, 2003
Turning up the power
By JIM McBRIDE
For as long as most Amarilloans can remember, the Santa Fe’s signature neon has cast its fiery glow over the city skyline, a radiant reminder of our railroad roots.
But for the past year and a half, the historic Santa Fe’s logo has remained dim, awaiting some much-needed repairs. Just after Thanksgiving, workers wrapped up the project and switched the darkened tubes on again.
Potter County Facilities Director Mike Head said the Santa Fe’s glowing neon is testimony to the shipping prowess of the Santa Fe Railway.
“The Santa Fe signs signified strength - that Santa Fe was able to ship out of all four different directions out of the Texas Panhandle…That’s why you see one on all four sides of the building,” Head said. “Old people used to call the building the jewel of the Texas Panhandle or the beacon. They could see the neon sign from a distance back many, many years ago before Amarillo got really lit up like it is now.”
Amarillo (TX) Globe-News
Web-posted Monday, April 5, 2004
By DAVID HORSLEY
Last week I had business in the old Santa Fe Railroad Building, now Potter County offices. I always marvel when I see that building up close. What a gem: The gleaming brass and polished marble; the gorgeous light fixtures and terrazzo floors; the rich wood and airy, pleasing light.
I’m happy that edifice belongs to the people of Potter County - 900 South Polk has good karma.