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(rshsdepot) Leesburg, GA

Lee depot idea not easy work

An old train depot is eyed as a launching pad for the renovation of downtown


LEESBURG - Lee County officials are trying to get back on track plans to
renovate downtown Leesburg, starting with a historic train depot.

Lee County Commissioners Lewis Harris and Jackie Sizemore asked Tax Assessor
Lee Stanley on Wednesday to apply to have the old train depot on U.S.
Highway 19 across from Leesburg City Hall placed on the National Historic

"It means a lot to us," Sizemore said. "It's an old building."

Harris and Sizemore hope to win the historic designation for the
3,000-square-foot structure, then pursue county funding to restore it.

They say they believe the train depot, built in 1896, can capitalize on
increased traffic when U.S. Highway 19 North is four-laned. That project
wouldn't happen until at least 2005.

The commissioners said they would like to see the renovated depot called
Wooten's Station, after the village founded in 1857 that became Leesburg 17
years later. Wooten's Station was a stopover for the Southwestern Railroad
and a drop location for mail and other products.

Along with Leesburg Mayor Bob Boney, Harris, Sizemore and Stanley say they
think the proposed highway - and a fixed up train depot - can ignite
commercial growth in the downtown area.

But they acknowledge there are obstacles.

First, the highway project is stalled while Georgia Department of
Transportation officials seek money to build it.

Meg Pirkle, DOT assistant pre-construction director, said funding is the
main holdup for the project, which is scheduled for right-of-way acquisition
in 2004. An environmental study on the project is continuing, she said, and
should wind up this year.

Second, the train depot project has failed in the past to get off the
ground. In 2001, Leesburg applied for a $500,000 grant from the former Gov.
Roy Barnes' office but was denied.

Harris and Sizemore say they believe the project can succeed as a county
effort. Once the historic designation is awarded, the county could complete
an environmental study and architectural drawing, the commissioners said.
Then funding, whether through grants or the county's general fund, could be

Renovation plans for the depot include a 1,500-square-foot meeting room,
museum, kitchen, bathrooms and deck.

Harris, who represents Leesburg, said he hopes renovating the depot will be
the first step in turning around downtown Leesburg.

The Railroad Station Historical Society maintains a database of existing
railroad structures at: http://www.rrshs.org


End of RSHSDepot Digest V1 #601

The Railroad Station Historical Society maintains a database of existing
railroad structures at: http://www.rrshs.org