North Hollywood Train Depot

photo by: Groundwork Coffee

September 28, 2017

An Old Train Depot Provides Commuters with a Caffeine Boost

Los Angeles commuters, rejoice. For the thousands of people who pass through the North Hollywood Station by bus or by rail each day, there’s a hot cup of coffee waiting at the new Groundwork Coffee, located in the recently renovated 19th-century train depot on Chandler Boulevard.

Southern Pacific Railroad built the wooden, single-story Toluca Southern Pacific Depot in the 1890s, and the town that eventually came to be called North Hollywood grew around it. The depot became even busier in 1911, when Pacific Electric Company began operating its new streetcar line between there and Hollywood.

Indoor seating

photo by: Groundwork Coffee

Groundwork Coffee left the depot's original iron railings intact.

Indoor seating

photo by: Groundwork Coffee

Exposed ceilings beams and duct work in the original passenger waiting area.

But the last streetcar left the depot in the early 1950s, and the Southern Pacific freight line used the structure for just a few years more. A local building supply company operated out of the space until the 1990s, when the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro, took ownership of it. For years, the depot sat abandoned and crumbling behind a chain-link fence as Metro developed its plan for the site.

Finally in 2010, the transportation agency began its first phase of restoration, stabilizing the structure’s exterior woodwork and removing contaminated soils and lead-based paint. In later phases, Metro's contractors built a new foundation and roof; upgraded all electrical and plumbing systems; completed seismic upgrades; rehabilitated the siding, eaves, windows, and doors; and repainted the depot its original mustard yellow color.

The $3.6 million restoration was completed in October 2014.

The next challenge was finding the right use for the depot—now one of the oldest existing structures in the San Fernando Valley. The tenant would have to agree to complete interior renovations and landscaping work. Early concepts floated for the space included a museum, restaurant, coffee shop, or bike hub.

Espresso counter

photo by: Groundwork Coffee

Groundwork Coffee renovated the interior of the train depot and opened its shop in early 2017.

In the end, the coffee shop vision won out. Groundwork Coffee Company, a Los Angeles-based certified organic coffee roaster, announced its plans in late 2015 to open its newest location inside the depot.

The company—which operates coffee shops in several older buildings around the city—set to work renovating the interior.

They left many of the depot’s original details intact, like the iron railings, thick wooden floorboards, sliding barn doors, and wooden ceiling beams. And features that were added, like the wood and marble-topped counter, the reclaimed wood shelves, and vintage light figures, were designed with the building’s age in mind.

Groundwork Coffee officially opened in the depot in early 2017.

The shop offers a full menu, with coffee, tea, pastries, sandwiches, salads, and breakfast items. Diners can take a seat either in the depot’s original ticketing area, or in indoor and outdoor passenger waiting areas. Soon, customers on the go will be able to grab coffee and baked goods from the depot’s old ticket booth window before they catch the next train.

Lauren Walser is the Los Angeles-based field editor of Preservation magazine. She enjoys writing and thinking about art, architecture, and public space, and hopes to one day restore her very own Arts and Crafts-style bungalow.

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