On May 17, 1909, the Western Pacific applied for a permit from the city of Oakland
to build a passenger Depot at 3rd and Washington Streets.
The permit shows W. H. Mohr as the architect, with a value of $36,045.00 plus $10,000.00
for further improvements in and around the building. Mr. Mohr specialized in the
Mission Revival style of depots. The depots for the larger towns along the Western
Pacific are of the Mission style. It appears the design for Oakland was changed before
construction was started.
My research has turned up conflicting information as to who actually designed the
Depot. The Oakland Tribune lists both Willis Polk and the D. H. Burnham Co. of Chicago
as the architects. I have found a 1909, elevation plan that shows the Romanesque
style exterior elevations. This plan states, “All interior arrangements as shown
on the original plan, to apply to this plan”. This would suggest a revision of the
The confusion between Willis Polk and the Burnham Co. can be explained by the fact
that Willis represented the Burnham Co. in the West until the death of Burnham.
Then Willis worked under the Willis Polk name. Interestingly I have found designs
for the WP Sacramento Depot by both the Burnham Co. and Polk’s Company. And they
are on the Mission style when both companies were known for their work in the Romanesque
style used at the Oakland depot. I have found no evidence Mr. Mohr worked for the
Burnham or Polk firms.
The Depot was built by the Ransome Co. of Oakland. This company is still in existence.
Mr. Ransome held many patents, one was for reinforcing steel used in concrete construction.
The Ransome Co. built the first reinforced concrete industrial building in the United
States. This building was for the Borax Co. in Alameda. Ransome also built the first
concrete reinforced arch bridge in the USA, located in Golden Gate Park.
The last scheduled train to use the Depot was in March of 1970 when the California
Zephyr service was discontinued. The Depot was sold in 1972 for $135,000.00 and
a demolition permit was applied for in 1974. This permit was held up and a Historical
Commission was formed to review such projects. On June 13, 1974, the Depot was designated
Oakland Landmark #1, thus saving the depot.
I have written a fairly extensive history of the Depot titled “History of the Western
Pacific Depot, 3rd and Washington Streets, Oakland California”. This can be found
in the History Room of the Oakland Public Library and in the Environmental Library
at the University of Berkeley. The depot is also covered in my book “Western Pacific
Depots And Stations “.