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(rshsdepot) Depots find new station in life

Depots find new station in life

All aboard: Communities join re-use trend

By Kimberly E. Mock

   The Norfolk Southern railroad depot on Hoyt Street in the northern edge
of downtown Athens used to host passengers awaiting a train bound for the
tiny north Georgia mountain town of Lula.
   Now, as headquarters for the Athens Area Community Council on Aging, it
hosts dinners, dances, craft classes and other activities for area seniors.
   Like many depots in towns throughout Northeast Georgia, the Hoyt Street
passenger station has undergone a metamorphosis in recent years,
transforming from an abandoned regional transportation hub into a new center
of civic life.
   According to Amy Kissane, executive director of the Athens-Clarke
Heritage Foundation, the adaptive re-use of depots is popular.
   A depot's typical construction - large rooms and sweeping doorways -
combined with its central location in a community, makes it ideal for a
variety of uses. In Northeast Georgia, railroad depots are used for
everything from private businesses and homes to civic club meeting spots and
town halls.

''(Re-use) is kind of a natural course for most buildings, but depots often
lend themselves more to modern adaptive uses than other (historical)
structures,'' Kissane said.
   In Winder, the depot is leased as office space to the Barrow County
Chamber of Commerce, while depots in Farmington and Greensboro have private
businesses as tenants. In Comer, the depot serves as a public education
facility, offering adult education courses and community computer workshops.
   The railroad's historical value within a community also makes re-use of
depots popular in the region, according to Northeast Georgia Regional
Development Center preservation planner Burke Walker.
   ''In some of the smaller towns and cities around Athens, the reason some
of those towns exist is because of the railroad,'' said Walker.
''Communities are very proud of their depots and see the re-use (of the
building) as a good use of the building and as a source of pride for the
   Walker also said the availability of federal funding for depot
restoration provides an incentive for re-use.

Currently, the city of Winterville is using more than $200,000 in federal
funds to restore the century-old Georgia Railroad depot that sits at the
center of town. Renovations should be complete in June 2003.
   City Clerk Gael Williams said Winterville hopes a refurbished depot will
give the small municipality more facilities for meetings and civic events.
   Since 1998, cities and counties across Georgia have had access to federal
funds to improve historical transportation facilities through the state's
federally-funded Transportation Enhancement Program.
   According to Kissane, changing the use of a depot doesn't diminish its
importance to the community.
   ''It's important to remember that just because a building isn't being
used for its original intent, that doesn't mean the building is obsolete,''
Kissane said. ''Railroad depots are a link to our past. . . There may not be
any visible reminder of a community's past than through a railroad depot or

Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on Thursday, February 27, 2003.
Click here to return to story:

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


End of RSHSDepot Digest V1 #607

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