Lawrence police are investigating the disappearance of the neon “Lawrence” sign from the roof of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Depot in east Lawrence. Depot Redux, the community organization leading an effort to restore the 1950s train station, which accommodates Amtrak riders, noticed the sign missing nearly a month ago.
“We thought Amtrak had authorized the removal of the sign,” said Carey Maynard-Moody, president of Depot Redux.
But Amtrak officials told Maynard-Moody they did not know why the sign would have been removed. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Corp., who owns the building, also had no clue where the sign was. Maynard-Moody then contacted the city manager’s office.
“We had not been aware that the sign had been removed until it was reported to us,” said Assistant City Manager Diane Stoddard.
The sign was one of two installed during the 1955 construction of the depot after floodwaters destroyed the original station. Amtrak was slated to restore both signs to their original condition, but that plan may be in jeopardy if the sign isn’t recovered.
“If you have an original design, you can replicate that with new construction,” said Depot Redux member and architect Stan Hernly. The sign could be replicated in its 1950s style, but Hernly said “it’s always best to have the original sign.”
A community effort to restore the entire station still hangs in the balance as city commissioners continue to search for funding. Their bid for a federal grant was recently rejected, but restoring the signs is a separate issue.
“We don’t anticipate the fact that the sign is missing to affect the restoration plan,” said Stoddard, “except for to say that particular sign is a very integral piece of the original architecture of the building."
Preserving the building’s historical architecture is one of the most important goals for Depot Redux.
“All we want is for it to come back,” said Maynard-Moody. “There’s nothing like the original.”