Last Spring, I wrote an article about the preservation of the Frisco Train Depot, where Chipotle Mexican Grill is now located. My news story was published in the Traveler, the University of Arkansas school newspaper, at the end of April. Read the article below or click the link to download the Word document.
Chipotle To Open in the Frisco Depot
By Erica Totten
The historic Frisco Train Depot will get attention within the next month with the opening of Chipotle Mexican Grill, the latest addition to Dickson Street entertainment.
Although the depot has been honored in the National Registry of Historic Places, it still faces the danger of losing it’s listing in the registry or worse, being demolished altogether in the future.
Alterations made to the building over the past years could have resulted in its removal from the registry, however it still has merit for being a contributing structure in the West Dickson Historic District, said Paula Marinoni, a Fayetteville native and historic preservation advocate.
“Historic buildings are removed from the registry if the original architectural design is altered too much and if important elements are lost, changing its original integrity,” Marinoni said.
Marinoni called the depot the second most important historic building in Fayetteville after Old Main. “The depot opened northwest Arkansas to the outside world,” she said. Her family was originally from Italy and she attributed her devotion to preserving Fayetteville to her background as an Italian, she said.
“In Italy, history and heritage is treasured and appreciated, so that had a big impact on me,” she said. “Unfortunately, not many people share this same perspective or value culture and history enough to preserve it properly.”
The St. Louis & San Francisco (Frisco) Depot, built in 1925, was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1988, according to the National Register. Listing in the National Registry is only an honor. There are no restrictions or protective easements protecting the depot from destruction, Marinoni said.
Greg Herman, an associate professor of architecture at UA, said the original depot was built in a “chateauesque design” but was altered to a “pueblo-revival style” to encourage travel to the Southwest.
“The character of the building has definitely changed to some degree, but at least it hasn’t been demolished,” Herman said. “It’s good to see it used for something,” he said, referring to its use as the Chipotle restaurant.
Marinoni was glad that the depot has avoided destruction, she said. But she thinks that it was restored in an insensitive way and no one paid attention to its historic quality, she said.
Patrick Williams, an associate professor of history at UA and member of the Washington County Historical Society, recalled that Fayetteville already has lost some important properties, he said. The depot cannot be protected by the city because it is privately owned, he said.
Old Main was allowed to deteriorate and was saved because of the interest of historic preservationists, Williams said.
“If something as iconic as Old Main can almost be destructed, other historic buildings are in danger,” Williams said.
In 1996, Marinoni led more than 4,000 Fayetteville residents in a successful effort to save Carnall Hall, she said.
However, success did not come easily. Residents had to be educated, inspired and informed about the preservation of Carnall Hall through news articles, television shows and meetings, she said.
“Part of the problem is that people aren’t knowledgeable about the historic buildings in Fayetteville,” Marinoni said.
Vanessa McKuin is the executive director of the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas. This nonprofit organization advocates and educates Arkansas residents about preservation issues through conferences, events and lectures. The HPAA is focused on preserving Arkansas’s architectural and cultural resources, McKuin said.
Historic buildings in Fayetteville give it a unique sense of place and we encourage heritage tourism, McKuin said. Heritage tourism is defined by the National Trust as traveling to experience the places, artifacts and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present.
“Development is inevitable and good for thriving communities,” McKuin said. “There must be a balance of development and preservation.”
Depot buildings often present a challenge to those attempting to put them in adaptive reuse, because technology has moved well past the Golden Age of railroads, according to the Arkansas-Missouri Railroad Archives. Preservation programs like the HPAA inform private owners about incentives such as tax credits for historic rehabilitation, which decreases the cost of rehabilitation, McKuin said.
Marinoni’s wish is for the city to eventually purchase the Frisco Depot and restore it to its original condition, she said.
“Fayetteville is very fortunate to have leaders like Mayor Lioneld Jordan and Chancellor Gearhart who do care about Fayetteville history and preserving it,” Marinoni said.
Marinoni and her family rode the last train out of Fayetteville in the 1960s, she said. She made a banner written in bright red paint which she held off the back train car that read: Progress, What’s That?