Norfolk Southern Offices
Used today as offices for Norfolk Southern, this building became the first Southern Railway passenger depot in Greensboro when it opened in 1899. Critical to the railroad industry for its location and key access point, Greensboro became known as the "Gate City," and the Southern Railway was part of this success. The brick depot was fashioned in the Richardsonian Romanesque style and features a three-story turret at the corner of Elm St. and Smother's Place. Sparked by the need for a bigger depot, this building was replaced by the J. Douglas Gaylon Depot on East Washington Street in 1927. Now used for office space for Norfolk Southern, the 1899 depot underwent architectural changes and was added to the National Register as part of the Downtown Greensboro Historic District in 1982.
Backstory and Context
At a time when rail was the chief method of transporting goods, Greensboro became known as the “Gate City” owing to its centrality to other cities throughout the region. The first railway to serve Greensboro was the North Carolina Railroad, which began in 1856 and ran from Morehead City to Charlotte. When they ceased operating a rolling railroad in the 1890’s they leased their tracks to Norfolk Southern. Norfolk Southern opened the old Southern Railway Station in downtown Greensboro on June 9, 1899, after being commissioned to be built by the Southern Railroad Company. The contract went to a firm from Knoxville, Tennessee, called D. Getaz and Company, who designed the brick depot in Richardsonian Romanesque style, and included a three-story turret at the corner of Elm Street and Smother’s Place.
The railroad brought development to rural North Carolina and was known for transporting farming and lumber products. Prompting commercial business and allowing for economic growth, the eastern part of the state largely became dependent on the railways for their income and livelihoods. This economic spark led to the need for a larger depot, and in 1927 the 1899 depot was replaced with a bigger one. This new depot, now known as the J. Douglas Gaylon Depot, sits on East Washington Street and was used as a passenger railway until it’s closure in 1979.
The 1899 depot was used for office space after the replacement and underwent a Neoclassical makeover. In 1982 the depot went into the National Register as part of the Downtown Greensboro Historic District. It is still used today as offices for Norfolk Southern. The building cost around $40,000 to be made and was made of Mt. Airy granite. Recognizable as one of the oldest historical places in Greensboro, the building marks the era of the Gate City, when the city was critical to the railway industry.
- Briggs, Benjamin . Historic Railroad Stations of Guilford County, Preservation Greensboro. December 15th 2014. Accessed November 17th 2019. https://preservationgreensboro.org/historic-railroad-stations-of-guilford-county/.
- Greensboro, Preservation . Old Southern Railway Passenger Depot, 400 South Elm Street, Pocket SIghts. Accessed November 17th 2019. https://pocketsights.com/tours/place/Old-Southern-Railway-Passenger-Depot-400-South-Elm-Street-4809.
- Bingham, Warren L.. Norfolk Southern Railroad, NC Pedia. Accessed November 17th 2019. https://www.ncpedia.org/norfolk-southern-railroad.