Henderson Depot to Show New Face at Open House
This Sunday (October 23rd ) for the first time in almost 20 years, there should be more people than pigeons at Henderson's 89-year-old Union Depot.
The occasion is an open house from 3 to 7 p.m. Hosted by depot's rescuers, The Henderson County Historical & Genealogical Society, the event is an opportunity for the public to see what efforts have been made to save the structure.
And, says Don Hazelwood, the organization's president, it's also a chance to see how much remains to be done and how badly help is needed to finish the restoration.
Only about a third of the work has been completed, he said, adding that labor has included reworking the distinctive cupola atop the station, reroofing the front portion of the building, rewiring, replastering the former V.I.P. waiting room and repairing that room's doors and windows.
The effort has spanned 11 years, since the Historical Society dramatically intervened to halt the wrecker's ball and preserve the depot that played a role in the lives of thousands of Hendersonians.
At that point, in 1979, the city was about to raze the vintage station that had been defaced by vandals, declared unsafe and condemned in 1976.
Some restoration work was done by Evansville businessman John Dannheiser, who owned the building for several years before donating it to the Historical Society in 1982.
Other labor has been done by the society's members, community volunteers such as Russ Coffman, who was helping rehang doors Monday, prisoners in the Henderson County Work Release Program, and students in the Henderson County High Vocational School and woodworking department.
It was the County High students who stripped and cleaned some of the depot's original doors and windows, preparing them for the attentions of local craftsman Harris Farley.
Farley, doing the job for only a fraction of his usual fee, put 162 patches in four of the doors. Coffman, who witnessed part of that delicate and time-consuming effort on the “pumpkin pine” doors, laughed and said the woodworker went from praising the tricky wood to nearly spitting on it.
But those doors now are ready for staining and, Hazelwood says, “will really be something to see when we're through with them.”
That west room, where dignitaries once awaited the arrival of their trains, soon will house the 80-member Historical Society's genealogical records and a mini-museum of “whatever historical things people want to donate.”
The records tracing hundreds of local family trees, and the mini-museum will be available to the public on certain days each week. Those days will be announced in the near future.
It isn't yet known what will fill the remainder of the building. A team from the Kentucky Heritage Council this summer suggested it be used for a community center or corporate offices.
In the meantime, the public can wander through Sunday while enjoying refreshments and the music of the Canoe Creek Band.
Jane Ploch, chairman of the event, believes it will trigger the same feelings of nostalgia that she and society officers Lorene Grasty and Bebe Curry have experienced.
All recall going off to college or sending others off from that platform, and waving farewell to young soldiers going to war.
The chairman says if anyone happens to have a piece of the depot, whether it be a section of ornate molding “or even a ticket,” the Historical Society would love to have it for the building or museum.
“At a meeting the other night, a man came up and gave me an old lock from the depot,” Mrs. Ploch smiles. Now that lock is back in its original home.
Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS
Copyright 2007 HCH&GS