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Bergamot Station is a facility housing many art galleries in Santa Monica, California, United States. The site was previously a railroad station from 1875 to 1953, serving the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad and later the Santa Monica Air Line.
The name "Bergamot Station" dates back to 1875 when it was a stop and car storage area on the steam powered Los Angeles and Independence Railroad from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles - as well as the subsequent Santa Monica Air Line on the Pacific Electric trolley system until 1953. The station was named after Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), a wild flower native to North America, that once flourished in the area.
After passenger service ceased, the line was used for light freight delivery only. Car storage was no longer needed and Southern Pacific Railroad leased the land to various companies for light manufacturing. Warehouse buildings were constructed and housed a celery packing operation, then an ice-making plant, and finally, the manufacturing home base for American Appliance water heaters.
As the rail line fell into disuse and eventual abandonment in the late 1980s, the City of Santa Monica purchased the entire parcel from Southern Pacific Railroad in 1987 to prevent it from being split up and sold. At that time a future light rail service along the right of way was anticipated within 10 years, and the site would be needed as a service yard and passenger station.
Transformation into an art gallery complex
American Appliance moved out in 1993, leaving a sprawling industrial complex sitting vacant. Even under the most optimistic scenarios, plans for the light rail were years away. The City, seeking a productive use for the site, approached Wayne Blank, developer and co-owner of the Shoshana Wayne Gallery. Blank's development expertise had already been tapped by the City of Santa Monica for an earlier project: the conversion of a vacant city-owned airport hangar into artists' studios.
Pleased with the airport project's outcome, The City asked Blank to conceive of an artistic use for the site. Blank along with acclaimed architect Lawrence Scarpa of the architecture firm Brooks + Scarpa, created a campus-like complex that retained its industrial and rudimentary look. "Blank's search for a limited partner began and ended with Tom Patchett, an art collector and TV writer who was looking for space to store and possibly exhibit his separate collections of contemporary art and Americana"
Bergamot Station held its official opening on September 17, 1994.
Present and rail revival
Bergamot Station has blossomed into a widely popular art destination for visitors from around the country and the world, with well over 600,000 each year. It now appears in most every tourist guide as a primary cultural destination, noted for its growing cluster of galleries which allow one to spend the day seeing art, rather than driving.
The complex has become so popular that the original rail intention has been usurped. When, in 2010, Phase 2 of the Metro Expo Line was approved, adjacent land was purchased to serve the purpose. 26th Street/Bergamot, a stop on the new Expo Line light rail between Los Angeles and Santa Monica, located just North of the entrance of the new arts destination, was opened to the public on May 20, 2016.
Galleries at Bergamot Station
- "The Short Story of the Long History of Bergamot Station", Smart Art Press, 1995
- Boehm, Mike (June 14, 2014) "Bergamot Station's tenants at odds over its future as Expo Line nears" Los Angeles Times