Join Us Sunday, October 8, for a Treasure Hunt at the Depot

Come one, come all — kids especially welcome! On Sunday, October 8, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., local treasure hunter Kelly Johnson will comb the depot’s grounds with a metal detector for buried treasures. Drop by anytime to see what he finds! We’ll build up a temporary display as the day progresses and I’ll be on hand to show off recent improvements within the building. Free lemonade as long as it lasts!

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It looks quiet at the depot, but…

We’re making progress! Since last spring, I’ve been working hard to raise funds for the next (and final) round of construction. The costs are considerable but not insurmountable. I’m already about a fifth of the way toward my goal of saving up $500,000 for this work. I hope to have the balance within the next few years. Nevertheless, I will continue to maintain and modestly improve the property along the way.

Yes, more improvements are needed before the building can be used. Although the main structure, exterior and roof are now in good shape – thanks to the work we finished last year – the interior of the depot remains pretty raw. Unfortunately, I can’t lease it out or let anyone use it until it’s fully code-compliant.

In broad strokes, the remaining work includes: adding sprinklers, distributing electricity, providing insulation, heating and air conditioning, interior finishes and exterior decks (like the old station platforms on three sides), steps, ramps and handrails. The building and the grounds need to be accessible. We need to add parking and landscaping.

In the meantime, I have provisionally made this project (and the history and community of Esparto/Capay) the subject of my doctoral research at Stanford, where I started a PhD program in Modern Thought and Literature last fall. I am learning a great deal about the region’s history – particularly its railroad history – through Stanford’s rich archive and the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis. (Leland Stanford, the founder of Stanford University, was director of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company when Esparto was established by one of its subsidiaries.) I hope to connect the Esparto depot project with some of Stanford’s ongoing archeological and public history projects. The period of my doctoral work coincides with my fundraising campaign.

For those readers/visitors whom I haven’t been directly in contact with since our town hall meeting last March, the following is a summary of the kinds of businesses we would like the depot to house [to be clear: these are not businesses I would create or operate myself, but ones I would lease space to… In other words, these are the kinds of businesses I am looking for (or in some cases, have found and am working with), individuals or small companies who have experience in commercial and hospitality enterprises and who share our vision of what the depot can be]:

° In the Main Deport Area: a combination restaurant/café or bakery with fresh produce store/deli (showcasing local fruits, vegetables, olives, nuts, meats, ice cream, etc.). This area would include a commercial kitchen that could be used for cooking classes and/or short-term rental by caterers, or for events.

° In the Central (former Baggage) Area: beer or other grain-beverage brewing – again featuring local ingredients – for direct sale and for consumption in the depot, on the platform deck, or on the grounds (in a shady beer garden).

° In the Lower Tower (former Waiting Room): a small retail business and/or a community center that could serve a range of needs. Examples: a city-country young writers exchange (Spanish-English); “socials”/community events with/from/for Latino farm-workers [these last two ideas are from Lauren Elder – thanks, Lauren!]; folk and farm skills classes [an idea offered by Rumseyhouse]; musical and other events, exhibitions, meetings, and so on.

° Outdoors: some shady areas for summer use, movies on warm nights, event space for hire and, possibly, a nursery with organic farming classes, etc.

What’s Next for the Depot?

Please join me on Saturday, March 23, from 3-5 p.m. at the Esparto Depot to discuss ideas for future uses of the building and land. What are the options? Here’s a list of ideas people have offered so far:

Restaurant, Fresh Produce Store/Deli (showcasing local fruits, vegetables, olives, nuts, meats, ice cream, etc.), Brewery + Beer Garden, Office, Retail, Gallery, Organic Nursery and Demonstration Farm, Farmer’s Market, Event Center, Community Center…

Have I left any out that you think we should consider? If so, please post a comment here and add your own idea. The property lends itself to anywhere from two to five uses (in the depot itself) plus one or two additional uses of the grounds.

On Saturday, March 23, I’d like to host a general discussion about all of the ideas on the table. I’d like to talk about logistics, funding, and timing for the next stages of work – and begin making decisions about uses for the depot. Anyone and everyone who wants to be a part of the depot’s future is invited to attend.

Thanks, everyone, who has helped and offered good ideas so far. – Maria McVarish