Way We Were: Home sweet home
Park City Museum Researcher
Welcome back to the series on the history of the Union Pacific depot, now 660 Main Street. As discussed last week, I am the Lone Survivor of Park City’s once vibrant railroad infrastructure. This week you will learn about a wonderful family that considered me “home sweet home” from 1957 to 1977.
By design, I was a multipurpose building. The first floor was dedicated to commerce, while the second floor served as the living quarters for the station agent and his family.
The station agent was expected to be on call seven days a week, meaning he was eligible for company housing.
The main floor included a waiting room for passengers, a utility room, the station agent’s office, a freight room and facilities for both the Railway Express Agency and the Western Union telegraph company. In terms of square footage, the largest area was the freight room.
In November 1956, station agent Paul Chester Stokes passed away after a brief illness. Paul had been Park City’s station agent since 1938 and his Union Pacific career had spanned 40 years. He was mourned by all who knew him.
In January 1957, Fay Dearden — Coalville’s station agent — was transferred to Park City. Fay joined the Union Pacific in 1946 upon his honorable discharge from the Navy. He, too, would enjoy a stellar 40-year career with Union Pacific. Fay brought his wife, Donna, and their three young children to Park City as well. After being well-established in Coalville, the family made the move with some trepidation.
Any concerns were soon vanquished.
After an exhausting day moving into her new home, Donna needed a breath of fresh air. She stepped outside onto the second floor balcony. It was a crystal clear evening. Gazing up at the night sky — the firmament of the heavens displayed above her — Donna had a premonition that Park City was going to be good for the family.
The next day her feelings were reaffirmed. Despite a heavy snowfall, residents stopped by to welcome the Deardens with open arms.
Donna set about to make the family’s new residence safe and comfortable. First, she insisted that the Union Pacific install a fire escape as there was only one access to the second floor. Union Pacific obliged, installing a ladder on the second floor balcony.
Second, Donna made it clear that the first floor of the depot was to be dedicated to Fay’s job responsibilities, while the second floor was strictly dedicated to family. The children welcomed their new surroundings, especially the excitement of living in an active train station.
The Park City local train number 226 visited six days a week usually arriving by 11 a.m. and departing by 3 p.m. After spotting their gondolas at the Judge and Ontario loading stations, the crew would discuss business with Fay then retire to the Cozy Tavern for lunch.
It was my honor that the Deardens considered me home for 20 years. They were the best family to ever live with me.
Park City is considering adding another legacy project that would mark the community’s role in the 2002 Winter Olympics.