(Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect renovation plans for the Herring Hotel.)

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – While Amarillo already has a number of names and distinctions, from”Yellow City” or “Bomb City” to the “Helium Capital of the World,” it recently gained another: Home to a handful of the most endangered places in Texas.

Preservation Texas, a nonprofit organization that works with the state and works to preserve and restore significant areas, sites, buildings, monuments, and artifacts released its most recent annual “Texas’s Most Endangered Places” list in May. Among the nine sites highlighted in the roster was the Amarillo Santa Fe Railroad Depot.

As described by the Texas Historical Commission, the Amarillo Santa Fe Railroad Depot, or Santa Fe Station, has stood on South Grant Street in the Downtown area since 1910 following the completion of the Santa Fe Railroad line into the city. Noted by historians as a part of the Harvey House chain of restaurants, hotels, and other businesses along the railroads, the rail station and its red-tiled roof stands among a number of the city’s iconic Santa Fe structures.

While the building is part of a site considered a district in the National Register of Historic Places, according to Preservation Texas, it isn’t listed individually. While the station was acquired by the City of Amarillo in 2013 and the Santa Fe Historical Railway Museum has been developing plans for the site that include the depot’s restoration, Preservation Texas said that the site made its endangered list due to the threat of city projects.

These concerns follow the development of the Santa Fe Depot Pavillion by the City of Amarillo and the project’s groundbreaking in 2022. City officials at the time of the groundbreaking said that the Santa Fe Depot stands as “one of the most historic treasured landmarks” in the area and its development will offer needed space for entertainment and gathering, such as the WRCA Ranch Rodeo.

However, despite city officials’ and partners’ enthusiasm, Preservation Texas still has concerns.

“Last year, a large metal pavilion was built adjacent to the Depot which has already damaged the character of the property,” said Preservation Texas about the site, “The Santa Fe Historical Railway Museum has been working to develop a comprehensive plan for the site which includes restoration of the historic depot, but increased public awareness and pressure on the City to halt further unsympathetic development on the site is needed.”

The Santa Fe Depot’s addition to Preservation Texas’ list creates a trio of Amarillo historic buildings that have been considered endangered by the organization.

In 2006, the organization listed the Herring Hotel among Texas’s threatened historical sites, as the largest and last-remaining of three oil-boom-era hotels built in the area in the 1920s. It features the Old Tascosa Room which served as a meeting place for the era’s most influential cattle and oil barons, as noted in previous reports on MyHighPlains.com, as well as 600 hotel rooms among its 14 stories.

The organization considered the Herring Hotel vulnerable to weather damage and vandalism after it was abandoned in the 1970s. However, as noted previously on MyHighPlains.com, the Sandvick Architects group was chosen in 2022 to renovate and restore the site in the upcoming years.

In 2017, Preservation Texas listed the Amarillo Helium Plant on its endangered places list. At the time and today, the now-privately owned property is awaiting rehabilitation. Among the sites of Texas considered to be of national significance, as noted by the Texas Historical Commission, global helium production was centered near Amarillo in the 1920s and 1930s, and by 1934 the Amarillo Helium Plant was the only commercial helium plant in the world.

The Amarillo Helium Plant began in the late 1920s when established by the Bureau of Mines, with its site connected to the Cliffside Natural Gas Field, the Rock Island Railroad, and Route 66. The plant continued making helium until 1970, as noted by the THC, and was closed in the late 1990s after all federal funding for helium operations stopped.

A state historical marker stands outside the Amarillo Helium Plant currently, though it was declared surplus property in 2006 and auctioned off to private ownership in 2007. Preservation Texas noted that while the site is protected by a covenant held by the THC, “stabilization and physical protection of the site’s historic structures is urgent.”

Altogether, the three sites highlighted by Preservation Texas are glimpses into bygone cornerstones of life in Amarillo, though the organization’s attention also stands as a testament to the lasting memory that these places and others have within the community today.

For the latest Amarillo news and regional updates, check with MyHighPlains.com and tune in to KAMR Local 4 News at 5:00, 6:00, and 10:00 p.m. and Fox 14 News at 9:00 p.m. CST.

This is a developing story. MyHighPlains.com will update this article as new information becomes available.

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