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The City Different is famous for its historic adobe and adobe-looking buildings, but the Santa Fe Railyard has its own aesthetic. Rather than jumping on the Spanish-Pueblo Revival bandwagon, it harks back to the warehouses of the railroading days. The new buildings in the Baca District of the Railyard are typically boxy forms that sync with the architectural standards laid out in the Railyard Master Plan developed by Design Workshop Inc., with input taken during more than 20 public meetings in 2002.

The rules for new buildings were based on the history of the district and on its existing buildings. Most of these are simple boxes, a direct expression of their function as rail-based warehouses. Their exterior walls are metal, stucco, or brick. Some used hanging canopies, not portales, for shading because portal posts historically interfered with boxcar loading and unloading.

The architecture chapter of the master plan encourages substantial window and door openings as vital to “a lively, vibrant urban space.” Big windows are considered appropriate in this district as a reminder of something new that trains brought to Santa Fe beginning in 1880: large panes of glass.

That year, trains with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway rolled between what is today the main Railyard and park in the North Railyard (west of Guadalupe Street and on both sides of Paseo de Peralta) and the Baca District on the other side of the New Mexico School for the Deaf. By 1905, the Denver and Río Grande Railway (the “Chili Line”) and the New Mexico Central Railway also ran trains through Santa Fe. Besides the rail sections that remain throughout the Railyard, two extant depots are evidence of a once-thriving transportation hub: the Santa Fe Depot, built by the AT&SF in 1909, and Tomasita’s Restaurant, which occupies the old depot that served the other two lines.

The idea of a revitalized Santa Fe Railyard dates back to 1987, when the city declared the district to be a “blighted area.” In 1995, the city purchased the land — 40 acres in the North Railyard and 10 in the Baca District — from Catellus Development Corporation, an arm of the AT&SF Railway. This was in some significant ways a rescue: Catellus was planning to build a big grocery store and a vast parking lot in the Baca section, according to Richard Czoski, executive director of the Santa Fe Railyard Community Corporation. — P.W.