Local History Corner July 2017

The Southern Railways Train DepotBrooks Children in Wagon

The Southern Railways Train Depot has been the center of life and the community for the Town of Mooresville since the construction of the first depot built in the 1870’s by Mr. John Franklin Moore. The depot stands in the exact center of town with the original town limits being a mile radius from the depot. Originally standing in the center of what is now Broad Street, the first depot was torn down, as a newer, larger one was constructed for reconnection of the railroad after the Civil War. The second depot burned in 1925 when a stove was left unattended on a windy night, causing ash to be blown out into the floor. Fortunately, only part of the depot burned, due to the close proximity of the fire department to the depot and the department’s new 1921 La France fire truck. The railroad company decided to build a fire proof building and use what was left of the older building to construct the former depot. The train tracks were originally in front of the depot where the sidewalk and Main Street are today. The tracks were taken up in 1865 to keep the Danville, Virginia line open. The tracks did not return until 1882 when Southern Railroad brought the tracks back through. We know this because Mr. H.M. Johnston, who was a member of the town board spent three meetings complaining that the train depot was taking up 14 feet of his front yard. The depot was expanded and the buildings behind the depot on Main Street were built as the freight warehouse. The tracks as well as several sides (tracks beside the main line where railroad cars could be pulled safely to load or unload) were laid down behind the depot. The second building was built on the current spot, moving the building to a more central location between the two streets. The main entrance into the depot originally faced Center Avenue. The former ticket office is now the main entrance into the artist guild which is located on Main Street. The doors were still left on Center Street with the office door in the middle. Due to segregation at the time, one door—to the right of the middle door was for white passengers and the one to the left was for black passengers. The current main door that faces Main Street was left in place as it was used for people coming in to conduct other business such as sending or receiving telegrams. When you come in today, you enter through what is the first gallery for the artist guild and the former waiting room for the white passengers. The hardwood floors and walls are original to the building and you will notice on the wall in front of you, the original drinking fountain. The depot was built with restrooms inside and today the restrooms for this waiting area are located where the gift shop is currently. The middle section of the depot with the skylight was where the office was for the depot. The stairs at the back lead to the freight area which we will talk about in a moment. The next room, or lower room was the black waiting room. The restroom and water fountain were located at the back of the room. In both waiting areas, benches would have lined the walls as well as run down the center of the room. If you go back to the middle of the room and up the stairs at the back, you will be in the freight warehouse. This room was part of the second depot and survived the fire. The walls and doors are all original along with the exposed roof and beams. Tung and grove boards were used for the floor and walls. The large room, as you enter to the left was the freight master’s office where items were weighed. In front of the door, you’ll find the scales that were utilized to weigh items coming into the freight warehouse.

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