The Hub of Bakersfield hosts: “Historical Happy Hour” to save Summer Station

Jaylene Collins, Reporter

The Hub of Bakersfield, in association with the Kern County Historical Society, hosted a virtual “Historical Happy Hour” via Zoom with Jean-Guy Darbe, a National Award Winning Draftsman and Architectural Historian, on April 7. 

This “Historical Happy Hour” was focused on the 132-year-old Sumner Station, or Bakersfield Depot, located in Old Town Kern, which is currently out of commission and in the talks of being demolished. As a call to action, Darbe spoke about the train station’s history, architecture, and if saved, how the station can be repurposed. 

Darbe began by stating the station was made in 1889 and was a popular building in Bakersfield. He then explained how popular traveling by train was back then and these stations were common hotspots where they were located. 

“Railroad depots were the social centers of the communities that they served,” said Darbe. “This is where people came into the town and experienced Bakersfield for the very first time.”

Darbe continued by explaining stations like Sumner was where people often went to get information about the community, meet new people, grab a meal, and even stay at the station’s hotel. 

Darbe said however since traveling by train became less popular, the station did too. The station eventually closed and the hotels were converted into offices used by the Southern Pacific Transportation Company. Recently, a new office building was made and now the Sumner Station is in the talks of being demolished. 

Darbe then stated that the Sumner Station is one of the last Southern Pacific Railroad Stations standing as well as one of the last buildings in California with a Richardsonian and Romanesque design. 

Darbe stated that stations like Sumner are important parts of their respective city’s history and should be protected. For an example of a repurposed station, Darbe brought up the North Hollywood Station. The station was vacated and instead of being demolished was repurposed and is now a coffee shop under Groundwork Coffee Co. He then listed examples of what the Bakersfield Station can now be. A few of his examples were a museum, a restaurant, a brewery, a visitor center, and a city office space.

 Darbe closed by encouraging those watching to reach out to local council members and help save the station.

 “The Bakersfield Depot is worth saving. It is possible, it can be done,” stated Darbe. “I hope the community comes together and I look forward to helping you guys save this depot and I look forward to seeing it restored.”

The full webinar and more information on how to save Sumner Station from being demolished are available on The Hub of Bakersfield’s website and social media platforms.