Parkinson And Parkinson

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By Thornton Waite

[October 2009]

The architectural firm of Parkinson and Parkinson was a father and son partnership which designed several stations for the Union Pacific Railroad as well as other well-known buildings in California, especially in the Los Angeles area. They performed much of their work for the railroads in the 1920s, when the railroad industry was prosperous and working hard to retain their passenger business. Although their most famous depot was the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal, several of their other Mission style buildings are still standing and in use.

John Parkinson, the father in the partnership, was born on December 12, 1861 Lancashire County, England, and he moved to Winnipeg, Canada when he was twenty years old. He returned to England intending to open an architecture office, but when he was not successful he returned to North America, settling in Napa, California in 1885, where he had a practice there for 5 years. His most important building in this period was the Napa City Bank Building.

From 1890 through 1894 he had an office in Seattle, Washington, and designed several buildings either by himself or with another architect named Evers. In this period he designed the Pacific and Eppler buildings and the Butler Hotel in Seattle. He was later appointed City Architect and was in charge of planning and building over twenty schools in the city and surrounding area. In 1894 John Parkinson moved to Los Angeles and opened a practice there. His first important commission after settling there was the Currier Block on Third Street in Los Angeles, between Spring and Broadway, and he maintained his office in that building for several years. He also designed the Homer Laughlin Building in Los Angeles. Parkinson was active in civic affairs, and helped draft a new city Building Code in 1900 and served for several years on the Municipal Art Commission.

In 1905 Parkinson joined with Edwin Bergstrom to form the firm Parkinson and Bergstrom, and they won wide recognition for their work. In this time period they designed the Old Mason Opera House, the Arcade Passenger Station of the Southern Pacific Railroad, the Los Angeles Athletic Club, and several hotels. They also designed Bullock’s Store and addition, as well as some buildings for the University of Southern California. The firm was chosen to design the first Chamber of Commerce in Pasadena, about 1906, the Utah Hotel and the Kearns Building in Salt Lake City, and the Southern Hotel in Dallas, Texas. The partnership was dissolved in 1915 and the senior Parkinson continued work with his son Donald and stayed active in the firm in the latter years of his practice.

In the 1930s the Parkinsons, Austin and Martin were commissioned as architects for the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal Buildings. This was John Parkinson’s last major work, and he died on December 9, 1935, before the complex was completed. He was a member of the American Institute of Architects.

Donald Parkinson, son of John Parkinson, was born in Los Angeles on August 10, 1895 and after his education in Los Angeles went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study engineering and architecture. He began his practice with his father in 1920 under the firm name of John Parkinson and Donald B. Parkinson and continued his work using that name in the same office in the Title Insurance Building after his father’s death.

He was the co-designer of many important buildings in the city, including the Coliseum in Exposition Park, the Federal Reserve Bank Building, and buildings on the campus of the University of Southern California. Donald also designed the Elks Club and the Security National Bank in Santa Barbara. Independently he also worked on buildings for the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation and the Lockheed Air Center and received five Honor Awards and two certificates of Merit for his work. He served in World War I as a Lieutenant and was a member of the Army Engineers Corp in World War II, receiving the rank of Major in 1943. Donald Parkinson died on November 23, 1945, in Los Angeles.

A few of the father-son partners designs were the Title Insurance Building in Los Angeles, and its later enlargement, the Broadway Department Store in Hollywood, and the new Los Angeles City Hall. This building was planned with John C. Austin and Albert C. Martin and built after 1930. The firm of Parkinson and Parkinson designed over 50 Los Angeles landmarks. The railroad depots designed by Parkinson and Parkinson:

Arcade Passenger Station, California: This depot, designed by the senior Parkinson for the Southern Pacific, opened on November 30, 1914, and in 1924 the facility was also reportedly used by the Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad.

Caliente, Nevada: The first major depot designed by the Parkinsons was the Mission style depot at Caliente, Nevada, which set the style for future Mission style depots on the LA & SL. Located at 100 Depot Street, the depot was part of a complex built by the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake including a 20 stall roundhouse, shops, and company houses. The previous depot had burned down on September 9, 1921, and the new one was opened in 1922. It was a 58 x 207 foot station and hotel. It was a frame depot with a stucco veneer, red tile roof, two restaurants, and a 50 room hotel. The $83,600 building set the pattern for most of the other Mission style depots on the Los Angeles & Salt Lake line.

In 1948 the Union Pacific closed most of the Caliente facilities due to the dieselization and the introduction of CTC eliminated the need for crew changes. A lone helper engine worked out of Caliente until about 1953, and there was a station agent until 1983. After renting the depot to the town of Caliente in 1970, the Union Pacific donated the depot to the town in 1971. It is used as a town hall, police station, and library. The depot was added to the National Registerof Historic Places in 1974.

Ogden, Utah: When the Ogden, Utah depot burned down on February 12, 1923 the depot burned down it was old and not well thought of. The north and south wings did not burn, and only the walls remained in the center portion of the building. Although the railroad companies owning the depot initially said they would rebuild the station, the city object so vociferously that they elected to build a new station, clearing the ground in April, 1924 and building the new station on the foundation of the depot which had just burned down. The new depot was dedicated on November 22, 1924. They designed the depot for the Ogden Union Railway and Depot Company in the Italian Renaissance Style which was popular in Europe in the fifteenth century. The two arched entrances on the east side are bordered with blue mosaic tile and wrought iron chandeliers and framed by carved Boise sandstone. The adjoining trainmen and mail buildings were less ornate. The building was made using pink and buff brick which looked like Cordova tile.

The Ogden depot is 374 feet long and averaged 88 feet wide and cost $400,000 when it was opened on November 22, 1924. A large two story waiting room with an open truss ceiling, 60 feet by 112 feet with a 56 foot ceiling was in the center of the depot. It served the trains of the Southern Pacific, Union Pacific, and Denver & Rio Grande, with up to 120 passenger trains a day passing through during World War II.

Traffic through the depot following the war, and in 1968 the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific took over the operations from the Ogden Union Railway and Depot Company. With the advent of Amtrak only a single train a day stopped at the depot. After several years of negotiations, the depot was transferred to the city of Ogden on October 21, 1978. Today the depot houses public information offices and several museums, including the Utah State Railroad Museum, with many locomotives and cars on display. With the discontinuance of Amtrak’s Pioneer in 1997 no passenger trains stop at the depot.

Milford, Utah: The Milford depot, opened in 1923 for the Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad, was a Mission style depot 30 x 197 feet, and included a hotel. When it was built Milford served as a crew change point. It was the largest Mission style depot on the LA&SL and was razed in 1979, being replaced with a modern glass, metal and concrete building. Milford was originally a railroad town, and an engine terminal was built there to service the locomotives needed to haul the trains over the 0.8 to 1.0 per cent grade to the west of Milford. The terminal was closed down in the 1950s with the discontinuance of steam locomotives.

Los Angeles, California: The Los Angeles depot was the last, large depot built before World War II, and was also the largest mission style depot built, opening on May 7, 1939 after a three day celebration attended by over 500,000 people. It was built after literally decades of controversy, ending with a ruling by the Supreme Court, and work started on the new union station in 19233. The costs for the depot were shared by the Union Pacific, Souther Pacific, and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe lines.

The father and son partners were officially the consulting architects for the combination Art Deco and Mission style depot. The depot was served by two streetcar lines, there was parking, and a Fred Harvey restaurant was in the union station. The facilities were designed by Mary Colter, who also designed many other facilities for the AT&SF. There were also landscaped gardens.

The depot had 16 tracks, a pedestrian tunnel, and was used by the Hollywood stars. Following World War II the use of the station declined, accentuated by the advent of Amtrak. In 1992 Metrolink, the Los Angeles area commuter agency, began operating trains to and from the station, and the Red Line subway and the Gold Line will soon be serving the station. It is served by the long distance Amtrak trains, the San Diegans, and the Pacific Surfliners. It is now officially called the Los Angeles Union Station. There are many plans and hopes to expand and improve the union station facilities due to the increased rail traffic.

Further Reading:


1) The first major station designed by the Parkinsons was the depot at Caliente, Nevada, opened in 1921. The Mission style depot set the tone for future depots on the Los Angeles & Salt Lake route of the Union Pacific. The depot was donated to the town and is used for a variety of community purposes. (Collection of Art Peterson)

2) The Parkinsons designed the depot at Ogden, Utah on the foundations of the depot which burned down in 1923. The building houses several museums, a restaurant, and information offices. (Thornton Waite)

3) The Milford, Utah depot was designed by the father-son team of Parkinson & Parkinson in 1923. It was razed in 1979 and replaced by a metal, glass and concrete building. This view was taken in 1965, while it was still being used by the Union Pacific. (Clifford Peake, Collection of Thornton Waite)

4) The Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal was a combination Art Deco/Mission style depot opened in 1939. The Parkinsons served as consulting architects for this station, the last large railroad station built in the United States. It is currently undergoing a revival, with increased passenger traffic on Amtrak, Metrolink, and local subway lines. (Union Pacific Museum)