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Passenger demand and a rising local population inspired the Union Pacific Railroad, in 1938, to rebuild an existing station to compete with the nearby Northern Pacific Railroad Depot. This new brick depot replaced an older nineteenth century wooden structure, built originally for the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company, and was in keeping with a variety of brick edifices that had risen both in downtown Pullman and at Washington State College earlier in the twentieth century. Now out of service as a depot, the Union Pacific logo still graces the north facade of the renovated structure. Original wooden beams are still clearly visible inside.

  • View of the former Union Pacific depot, also known as the "Cougar Depot." Photo taken February 2018.
  • Cougar Depot on August 5, 1940, taken by R.R. Hutchison. Courtesy WSU Special Collections.
  • October 16, 1939, view of the new Union Pacific Depot under construction (background) next to the wood frame depot (demolished) it would replace. Courtesy WSU Special Collections.

The Union Pacific Railroad arrived in Pullman in 1887, leasing the line completed by the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company in 1885. For many years, a small wood-frame depot served passengers arriving by this railroad; it was torn down soon after the new building replaced it. The former structure featured a gable roof with broad overhanging eaves. Large brackets and decorative bargeboards decorated the building’s exterior.1 Tall, narrow windows and a corbelled brick chimney further defined the building. The building was torn down soon after the new building was opened.2

The new building, constructed between 1938 and 1939, reflects the trends of its time. In the Minimal Traditional style, it features stripped down elements of the Tudor Revival style, such as half-timbering in the gable ends and a crenellated parapet wall. The Tudor Revival elements continue on the interior with large decorative beams.

The building was donated to Washington State University, which renamed the building “Cougar Depot” when it opened on July 13, 1988.3 As Cougar Depot, the building served as the university’s athletic ticket office, visitor center, and corporate meeting facility. WSU replaced Cougar Depot with the Brelsford Visitor Center in 2014 and sold the building to Umpqua Bank.

1.  Robert Luedeking and the Whitman County Historical Society, Images of America: Pullman (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2010), 108.
Ralph Raymond Hutchison, “Pullman Railroad Depots October 26, 1939,” Hutchison Studio Photographs of W.S.U. and Pullman, WA, 1927-1973, 3680c,
3. Robert Franklin, “Cougar Depot,”, March 19, 2015 (accessed February 15, 2018).