Prior to the brick building you see now, a large wooden depot stood here on the exact same foundation footprint. It had been built at the time of the city’s founding in 1888. This wooden depot building greeted the Disney’s when they moved from Chicago in April 1906.
Flora Disney arrived first with Roy, Walt, and Ruth. Elias Disney and the two older sons, Herbert and Raymond, followed a few days later in a boxcar loaded with the family belongings along with two horses Elias had bought in the Chicago stockyards.
When the Disney family moved on to Kansas City in 1911, the wooden Santa Fe depot was still here to say good-bye. The building would be moved not long afterwards to allow for the construction and opening of the brick depot.
On April 10, 1913, the new Santa Fe passenger station and office building was dedicated. It was described as a cold drizzly day, but this did not dampen the celebration for the unveiling of what was a monument to Marceline progress. Marceline was only in its 25th year and it now had a train station that was one of the best in the United States. The magnificent building boasted 107 windows and over 200 – 100-watt electric lights. It was a city-wide celebration and every building in town was decorated for the event. The public was given an open-house tour of the building and the famous Dodge City Orchestra played in the waiting room throughout the afternoon.
In the early 1900s the railroad constructed a separate building called the “Reading Room” where Santa Fe employees could go to play piano or read books. Small concerts were given there as well. In a 1909 Santa Fe railroad workers magazine article, the Marceline Reading Room mentioned as being famous for its flower garden. From time to time, special performances were given there. There was an agreement with Santa Fe that performers travelling between Chicago and Los Angeles who agreed to stop and put on a show in Marceline would get their travel for free. Thus, the small town of Marceline was treated to appearances by Shirley Temple, Mae West, W.C. Fields, and Clark Gable. The Reading Room in Marceline no longer existed by the 1940s.
The Marceline Santa Fe depot was closed in the 1980s, with the last Amtrak passenger train stopping at Marceline in 1997. The depot stood forlorn and empty until 1999 when it was purchased from the Santa Fe railroad. It was subsequently renovated and converted into the Walt Disney Hometown Museum, which opened in 2001.
The adjacent garden area is a memorial to Rush Johnson, who was a prominent Marceline businessman. Rush and his wife Inez founded the Walt Disney Hometown Museum. The garden is a nice place to relax and watch trains go by.