Harvey Hotels & Restaurants on Route 66

El Garces, Needles, California

El Garces, Needles, California. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander, 2008. Click for prints, downloads and products.

Needles – When the original depot was destroyed by fire; it was replaced by the El Garces Harvey House and Train Depot which was completed in 1908. The building was named “El Garces” in honor of Father Francisco Garces, a missionary who visited the area in 1776.  The El Garces was considered one of the “Crown Jewels” of the entire chain and was remembered for the real linen and silver, distinctive china and fresh flowers provided for its guests daily. The lunchroom had two horseshoe-shaped counters and could serve many people. Community members also utilized the facilities for elegant private dinners, banquets, and special occasions. The El Garces closed as a Harvey House in the fall of 1949, at which time the building was partitioned and used as Santa Fe Railway offices.

In 1988, the Santa Fe Railroad moved their offices out of the El Garces to another facility and the building was closed. Sitting abandoned, the historic building was threatened with destruction until the Friends of El Garces was formed in 1993. Through their efforts, the City of Needles was petitioned to purchase the station, which occurred in 1999.

Restoration and reconstruction of the historic building began in March 2007. Plans were made to sell the facility to a buyer who planned to open an upscale hotel and restaurant. However, those plans fell through when the Federal Transit Administration determined that because it had granted $4.8 million in public funding for construction, ownership had to remain with the city. Restoration continued and the exterior was completed in 2014. However, initial hopes for the building apparently have not been achieved as today it remains vacant and is for lease.

San Bernardino Santa Fe Depot – In the late 19th century, San Bernardino was chosen as the headquarters for the Santa Fe Railroad’s massive Pacific Coast Locomotive Works, a transportation center serving rail passengers and the Railroad’s administrative offices. An original wooden depot burned to the ground in 1916 and was replaced by the magnificent depot that stands today. Designed in the Mission Revival style with Moorish influences, the grandiose structure was intended to befit the city image as the “gateway to southern California.” For the first half of the 20th century, the depot flourished; many travelers and business people used the depot and many were entertained at the depot’s famous Harvey House Restaurant. At its heyday, approximately 85 percent of the townspeople were dependent on the railroad for their livelihood.

Unfortunately, the depot’s great success did not protect it from the decline of the railroad industry in the latter half of the century, and it fell into disrepair. For years the old depot sat abandoned until finally in the mid-1990s the City of San Bernardino began to the work to bring the depot back to life. Some $15 million later, the restoration work, including historically accurate renovations of the interior and exterior and installation of utilities, the depot held its grand re-opening in June 2004. Today the renovated depot serves Metrolink, a commuter rail service, as well as Amtrak.


Chicago Union Station

Chicago Union Station – During Union Station’s boom years in the 1940s, more than 300 trains arrived or departed daily and 100,000 passengers passed through the terminal.  It was then that the historic station also housed one of the famous Harvey House restaurants. Today, Chicago’s Union Station continues to function as some 50,000 passengers pass through a day.


Joplin – The Frisco building that continues to stand in Joplin once served as Joplin’s train depot and one of the famous Harvey House Restaurants. Today, it has been refurbished into an apartment building.

Springfield – The original Springfield depot was built in 1882 when the Gulf line built a large two-story depot at the corner of Mill and Main Streets. It included a lunchroom built by the Fred Harvey Company on the west end of the depot. In 1901 the Frisco took over the Gulf line.

Springfield, MO Frisco Depot

In the early to mid-1920s several newspaper articles speculated that a new depot would be built, but instead, the Frisco hired architect R.C. Stevens to completely remodel and expand the building in the California mission style. There was still a Harvey House Restaurant, now on the east side. As railroad travel declined in the 1950s the depot saw fewer travelers. The popular Harvey House Restaurant was closed down in 1955, the last to close on the Frisco line. On December 9, 1967, the last passenger train left the station. There was talk in Springfield of turning the station into a shopping mall, but this never happened. The building immediately began to decline, as it was not secured from the public. Although placed on the Historic Sites Register of Springfield in 1975 in an effort to preserve it, the building was demolished on March 5, 1977.

St. Louis Union Station

St. Louis Union Station – On September 1st, 1894, St. Louis Union Station opened as the largest, most beautiful terminal in the United States. This enormous project was built at a cost of $6.5 million. The piece de resistance of this new station was the Grand Hall, which featured a 65-foot barrel-vaulted ceiling decorated with gold leaf, Romanesque arches and stained glass windows — the most magnificent of these being the Allegorical Window, which is majestically framed by the famous “Whispering Arch”. The end walls were decorated with low relief tracery emerging from female figures.

In its heyday in the mid-1940s, the station served over 100,000 passengers a day. During the 1950s, people began choosing other forms of transportation and with the decline in rail traffic, the station languished for a number of years until, in October 1978, the last train pulled out, marking the end of an era.

In March of 1979, Oppenheimer Properties purchased the station for $5.5 million. In August of 1985, after two years of extensive restoration and new construction costing $174 million, St. Louis Union Station celebrated its grand reopening as a specialty retail, restaurant, entertainment, and hotel complex, making it the largest adaptive reuse project in the United States.

1 thought on “Harvey Hotels & Restaurants on Route 66”

  1. The worst food ever!! The food was cheap, poorly prepared however the cost was expensive. I could not even eat it and The waitress couldn’t care less.

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