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Florence Depot

Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Depot – Florence

City/Town:
Location Class:
Built: 1904 | Abandoned: 1978
Status: Abandoned
Photojournalist: Emily CowanMike Stutz

In the early months of the year in 1904, the flourishing town of Florence was alarmed by smoke billowing from the Florence depot. A town put on the map by the railroad, worry ensued. A spark from a passing passenger train had caught the building on fire, burning it entirely to the ground. Within days the town had already started talking about the new depot that would need to be built in replace of the old one. A contract was given to W.R. Carter to build a $22,000 new brick passenger depot that resembled the nearby Sterling depot. The new Florence Depot would have a tile roof, a men’s and women’s waiting rooms at the west end, a ticket office with a big bay window on the north end, and baggage, boiler, and express rooms. In addition to this building, a $10,000 frame freight depot would also be constructed nearby. Work started around May and the new depot was open in September with a celebration from the town. Florence soon became known as “a thriving city”, the depot continued to be an important eating station along the railroad. The railroad was what put Florence on the map and was the heart of the town.

Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Depot - Florence
Provided by Kansas State Historical Society

In 1930 Samuel Roll of Elkhart died a tragic death after being struck by one of the locomotives in front of the Florence depot. Before safety measures were in place the tracks were just open, oftentimes patrons waited on top of them or very close to them. He stepped onto the track while awaiting his train and was hit causing instant death. It was not more than a decade later that mentionings of the Florence Depot stopped in the local newspapers. 

The Florence Depot was used in 1977 during the filming of the movie Mary White, although the “Florence” was replaced with “Emporia”. Above is the scene shot at the depot, with the time period taking place in 1921. While the locals were ecstatic about the use of their depot and them as extras people in Emporia were not so happy, one saying “I loved the film, the only scene I didn’t like was the train scene, why did they use Florence instead of ours? (Emporia’s Depot)” After the movie finished filming the depot was abandoned once again.

There has been a rally to save the depot from the Florence Historical Society, hoping to strike a deal to restore it. The owners, Burlington Northern & Santa Fe, originally offered to donate the depot in exchange for the town of Florence paying for $6,000 in fees. The Florence Historical Society then set about collecting between $5-6,000, but then a curveball was thrown. BSNF was still willing to donate the depot but now only if it would be moved off of their property, not a small task. The Florence depot was then slated for demolition on November 8th, 2017, but that date came and went without any action at the site.  

The Florence Depot Committee was created as a sub-entity of the FHS. In 2021, efforts to obtain the building took off with Chairman Bob Rusk heading the discussions. Finally, a deal was cut with the BNSF Railway to donate the structure under certain stipulations such as having proper insurance etc. They would also lease the land that the depot sits on to them for a dollar a year. Other wins for the Committee include the donation of 5-6,000 authentic green terra-cotta tiles from a depot in Stillwater, Oklahoma. These tiles are very similar to what the Florence Depot had in earlier years. In addition to receiving the proper insurance, they are in the works of becoming a registered Nonprofit Organization and then the papers to transfer ownership will be finalized. Immediately following the transfer of ownership, they will submit the documents to get the building on the National Register of Historic Places which we are honored to donate this article for use in this step. Then fundraising and grant applying will begin to officially start the restoration.

Bibliography

“13 Apr 1977, Page 19 – The Emporia Gazette at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/10275329/?terms=%22florence%20depot%22&match=1.

“18 Feb 1904, 5 – Florence Bulletin at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/426604200/?terms=florence%20depot&match=1.

“23 Apr 1904, 8 – The Topeka Daily Herald at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/387439674/?terms=florence%20depot&match=1.

“24 May 1904, Page 6 – The Topeka Daily Capital at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/63377862/?terms=florence%20depot&match=1.

“25 Mar 1904, 3 – The Journal-Democrat at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/381808403/?terms=florence%20depot&match=1.

“26 Jun 1930, 1 – Elkhart Tri-State News at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/380119981/?terms=%22florence%20depot%22&match=1.

“27 Sep 1904, 6 – The Kansas Review at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/479551948/?terms=florence%20depot&match=1.

“5 May 1904, Page 3 – The Evening Kansan-Republican at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/93465311/?terms=florence%20depot&match=1.

“7 May 1977, Page 23 – The Emporia Gazette at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/10208850/?terms=%22florence%20depot%22&match=1.

“Without a Deal, Florence Depot Slated for Demolition | Peabody Gazette-Bulletin | Oct. 5, 2017.” PEABODY Gazette-Bulletin | Newspaper from Peabody KS | April 21, 2021, peabodykansas.com/direct/without_a_deal_florence_depot_slated_for_demolition+4902depot+576974686f75742061206465616c2c20466c6f72656e6365206465706f7420736c6174656420666f722064656d6f6c6974696f6e.

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Emily Cowan

Emily is a two-time published author of "Abandoned Oklahoma: Vanishing History of the Sooner State" and "Abandoned Topeka: Psychiatric Capital of the World". With over two hundred published articles on our websites. Exploring since 2018 every aspect of this has become a passion for her. From educating, fighting to preserve, writing, and learning about history there is nothing she would rather do.

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Bob Rusk
9 months ago

I am the Acting Chairman of the Florence Depot Committee. A couple weeks ago I sent comment to you about our depot. However, I think I accidently inserted a typo in my e-mail address. I was wondering why i had not yet received a response to my message. Please get back to me so that a dialog can be started..Thank you.

Bob Rusk

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