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Community members rally to save Sumner Station

Posted at 10:12 PM, Apr 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-12 01:58:09-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Members of the community have been rallying to save Sumner Station in Old Town Kern from demolition.

Sumner Station has been around since the 1800s, but when community members heard it might be demolished, they flooded social media with photos of relatives and their ties to the station.

One Bakersfield native showcased the memories through acrylic on canvas, which eventually touched a Bakersfield city council member.

“I was reliving a memory,” said Mike Doyle, Bakersfield native, and artist.

Bakersfield native and artist, Mike Doyle captures Bakersfield landmarks in acrylic on canvas, his nostalgia of the city he's called home for 53 years brought to still life.

One of those landmarks being Sumner Station, and the train depot that has stood in Old Town Kern since the 19th century.

Doyle recalls the train depot fondly which he spent a lot of time near due to his job.

“It was really neat, the trains running through. and on break, I would go to the train station. It brings back a lot of fond memories, and my wife at that time, when she used to go to work, she would stop by and she would bring me lunch. and say hi,” said Doyle.

The buyer of his first Sumner Station painting was his old Bakersfield college professor, Dave Rhea. The two reconnected over breakfast about a month ago, and that’s when Doyle learned of the demolition.

“He said you oughta, paint another painting and send it to council member Gonzales because he’s a real advocate for saving it,” said Doyle.

So Doyle did paint more and got more buyers, but some record of the painting did make it to Bakersfield city council member Andrae Gonzales, who has been working alongside community organizations like the Hub of Bakersfield to keep the current owners, Union Pacific from demolishing it after they vacate the property to move to another office space.

“I think that speaks a lot about our community, that yes we’re looking toward the future as Bakersfield grows, we become more urban, but at the same time we still regard and respect our history and our past," said Gonzales.

Gonzales pointed to past historic buildings in peril, here to stay, like the 18hundred building, the Padre Hotel, and even the Bakersfield Fox, a landmark he says people far and wide admire and take photos of.

“That could have went away in the mid-90s, if it wasn’t for community members who came together, raised the money, and said, ‘we are not going to lose this.' They gave us all the gift, and for future generations.”

Gonzales adding he’s been in talks with Union Pacific to hold off on demolition until he can bring forth the issue to the city council on May 5.

He and some city staff planning to propose the city take ownership of Sumner Station and through a private developer look for adaptive reuse, such as turning it into a food hall.

Meanwhile, 23ABC did reach out to Union Pacific about their decision. They told us in a statement that “Union Pacific recently met with the city of Bakersfield to discuss potential opportunities for future use of the depot. Discussions are ongoing and no decision has been made on the future of the depot at this time.”

Gonzales says this is an important time for the community to continue speaking up if they want to see Sumner Station live on in Old Town Kern. He says they can contact Union Pacific directly.

For your opportunity to help save Sumner Station, check here for ways you can contribute.