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.

7 thoughts on “It looks quiet at the depot, but…

  1. Fabulous! May I share this on FB?

    Melissa Jordan

    530 219-2816

    If you didn’t hear me say it, don’t believe it till you check in with me.Melissa Jordan 12/18/2013

    Date: Mon, 24 Mar 2014 23:27:58 +0000 To:

  2. Very exciting to hear that the project is moving ahead and taking on such clear forms!
    Thanks so much for receiving my suggestions about the community space and for the acknowledgement.
    I will be happy to help actualize when the moment arrives.

    In the meantime, please let your community know about the exciting gathering in DAVIS in 10 days: THE COMMUNITY BUILT ASSOCIATION National Conference. Some members might want to do a special field trip to visit you if that is welcome.

    Click to access 2014_Conference_Schedule.pdf

  3. Hi Maria

    I’m a designer/farmer (with several links to the CCA design community) setting down roots (literally and figuratively) in Rumsey. I was convinced to take the leap in part by learning of your efforts to make the Esparto Depot again part of the valley’s economic and cultural ecosystem. I’m excited by the ideas the community and you have generated for the depot, and look forward to contributing to its rebirth and success. Can I contact you offline to learn more about your plans, current status, and how I can lend a hand?


  4. I lived in the station when I was a kid starting at age 1 in 1979. Just went up to the Full Belly farms harvest event last week for my 37th birthday and saw the station, painted white and looking beautiful and empty. Got a chill when we looked the website up and learned that you are interested in memories in the space. My parents had a nursery/feed store there and we had amongst other things, chickens and peacocks. Hard and beautiful times there. I check in on the station every few years and am generally disappointed by it’s disrepair. Happy to see this amazing corner is getting some love.

    • Aurora, many thanks for your comments here. I’ve heard from many people in Esparto about your parents’ nursery and feed store in the depot. I’d love to hear more about your childhood experiences at the depot and in the area. Feel free to write to me directly if you’re ever inclined:


      p.s. I was at Full Belly’s Hoesdown last Saturday night. So fun! My favorite part was when it started pouring rain. Everyone was cheering in the dark, following the Dixieland band around the dance area and beyond after the power went off on stage.

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