After the city of Pearland was founded in September 1894 by Polish Count Witold von Zychlinski, the establishment of the railroad and the Santa Fe Railroad Depot sparked growth and development in the new city.
According to the Pearland Historic Society, Pearland was a water station for the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway steam engines traveling from Alvin to Houston in the late 1890s. Once the Santa Fe Railroad Depot was constructed in 1900, the city experienced a tremendous amount of growth as people flocked from the Midwest to Pearland by train.
“At that time growth followed the railroad,” said John Mark, president of the Pearland Historical Society. “They advertised in the newspapers in that part of the country to make [Pearland] seem like a tropical paradise.”
Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway constructed the depot in 1900.[/caption]
Mark said the depot’s original location was situated east of FM 518 on Broadway Street. The depot quickly became the social meeting place in Pearland as residents received the most up-to-date news and would wait for family and friends to come through town on the passenger trains.
“We remember [the railroad depot] as the center of activity for Pearland,” he said. “Even after we got telephones, you would get a phone call from the station agent telling you to come pick [up] a relative from the station.”
As the city of Pearland continued to grow through the 20th century, and the popularity of motorized vehicles increased, the use of Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe railroads slowly dwindled as a means of passenger transportation. By 1972 passenger trains were no longer stopping at the Santa Fe Depot, and it was strictly used as a freight depot.
In 1972 the Santa Fe Railroad Company sold the depot to the city of Pearland and the Pearland Garden Club used it until 1974, according to the historical society. The depot eventually was relocated in 1980 from its original location to 3501 Liberty Drive, Pearland, next to City Hall.
Although the depot is no longer in use, Mark said credit for Pearland’s growth is squarely rooted in the establishment of a railroad system.
“Were it not for the railroad, Pearland would have remained cattle country,” Mark said.