History of the Depot

A Quiet Treasure

Doug Offenbacher

How often do you drive by the Depot and smile? How many times have you attended events there and enjoyed the warmth of its main room? How much do you know about our Kenwood Depot?

If you’re like most of us, you know very little about this piece of history that sits quietly along Warm Springs Road, giving no indication of the prominent role it played in the story of Sonoma County.

Even more fascinating is the list of powerful names that played a role in the history of the Depot. Names like Stanford, Huntington, Crocker, Hopkins, McDonald, Griswold and other lesser-known but prominent figures in the early days of California.

This column is called “Discovering the Depot” because that’s just what we’re doing. We know much from the research of Dee Sand, Bob Parmelee, Gaye LeBaron and others, but there is much left to discover and possibly you or someone you know can help fill in some of the gaps before the information is lost forever.

Of great interest to most historians is the architecture of our Kenwood Depot described as “Richardsonian Romanesque.” Developed by Henry Hobson Richardson of Boston in the late 1800s, this design style was all but unknown in 1888 California. Yet here stands a classic example of that style. There’s more to this mystery coming in a later column.

We do know that stone train stations were rare in early California, the standard being of wood frame construction. Our depot was built to lend an air of establishment to the new town of Los Guilicos (later called Kenwood). Los Guilicos was essentially a residential development created and financed by many of the prominent figures mentioned earlier. It was only fitting such a venture should have a special depot awaiting prospective buyers.
It’s also no coincidence that among the investors were principles in the railroad that serviced the depot.

This was a railroad town, created and promoted by those who stood to benefit. But their vision of growth and business development was not to be, and with the passing of the rail era in the 1930s, Kenwood settled in to the quiet, idyllic existence that continues today.