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(rshsdepot) Henderson, KY

Plans to replicate depot draw praise
By FRANK BOYETT, Gleaner staff
February 26, 2003

A proposal to replicate the Union Station railroad depot on the downtown
riverfront received an enthusiastic reception Tuesday from the Henderson
City Commission.

Dr. John Logan laid out the proposal, and every member of the commission
expressed support. Mayor Henry Lackey said construction of the
5,000-square-foot building will begin "as soon as possible," with perhaps
"getting dirt turned this summer."

In a nutshell, Logan proposed that the city carefully raze the century-old
railroad station and mark the structural components -- such as the stone
facade and the cupola -- that could be re-used in building a replica on the
site of the old police station at First and Water streets. That would cost
an estimated $638,000.

"A reasonable facsimile of the depot is as close as we can come to saving
it," Logan said.

Funding would come from a $360,000 federal grant the city has already
received for the depot's restoration, as well as the proceeds of selling the
visitor center of the Henderson Tourist Commission at 2961 U.S. 41-North.

That property was bought by the Henderson Tourism Development Corp. for
$80,000 in late 1987, and shortly thereafter a log cabin was built to house
the visitor center and tourism offices. Logan said that property should
bring at least $100,000, and the money would be funneled into the depot

"Significant labor and materials will be donated for the project," Logan
said. "With effort, we believe a low-key public campaign can raise a portion
of the project expense. There may also be a need for a contribution from
both the city and county to complete the project."

One of the benefits the project would provide, he said, is "saving as much
of the depot as is possible." The depot was scheduled for demolition 25
years ago until a community uproar caused title to eventually be turned over
to the Henderson County Historical and Genealogical Society, which since
then has attempted to restore the building. The historical society turned
title over to the city several years ago, so it could be restored with
federal grants. Since then, however, it's been determined structural damage
has made restoration prohibitively expensive.

The new building would be located adjacent to the northwest corner of the
tennis courts, nearer to the river than was the old police station.

The replicated depot would tie in well with the city's riverfront
redevelopment efforts, Logan said, serving as a tourist visitor center as
well as offices for the tourist commission and the historical society. Space
for public display of significant historical artifacts would also be
provided, he said, which would be "an added attraction for riverfront

"We think you can really sell Henderson from where it should be sold -- on
the banks" of the Ohio River, he said.

The city commissioners expressed strong support for the idea, with several
of them noting that 25 years of attempts to restore the depot have all

"This culminates 25 years of effort and is certainly something I can
support," said Commissioner Bob Hall.

"I think that this solution is the best that it gets," said William "Buzzy"

Commissioner Russell Sights called it "an excellent alternative. I don't
think we have any alternative at saving the depot at its present location."

Commissioner Michele Deep said she liked the idea of "something beautiful to
look at instead of another large parking lot." The parking lot planned at
the location will still be built, but will be between the proposed building
and Water Street.

An ad hoc committee of the Henderson Tourism Development Corp. (the
non-profit corporation that owns the building housing the visitor center)
has developed the idea thus far, but city staff will continue that work.

Two potential roadblocks they will look at first are the stability of the
soil at that site and possible restrictions on the use of the $360,000
federal grant.

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