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RyPN Briefs February 12, 2008
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Historic Depot Restored in Mount Vernon, Ohio

People like historic public buildings and especially historic train stations. A depot, some people say, is a community's front door.

The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad depot, located five blocks west of the square on High Street, served as Mount Vernon's front door for more than 95 years as a telegraph office, freight and passenger railroad station. Owned by the City of Mount Vernon, the B&O depot has undergone a complete renovation that was completed in November 2007.

On Monday, November 25, 1907, Baltimore & Ohio passenger train number 7, northbound, was the first train to stop at the new B&O station. A small news item in the local newspaper, The Daily Banner, read, "The new building is a very handsome one and also very convenient. One of the most striking advantages is that a passenger can purchase a ticket and have his baggage checked without going outside the station. The new station is equipped with all modern conveniences. It is heated with steam and lighted with electricity".

The depot around 1909, from a postcard view. Note the horse taxies off to the far right and the drivers leaning up against the wall. Photo from the collection of Phil Samuell.

Hezikiah Stelts proudly showed off one of two of his horses he used for taxi service. Hezikiah provided service to the B&O depot as well as the Pennsylvania depot on the south side of Mount Vernon. He lost his right arm in a railroad accident. Photo from the collection of Phil Samuell.

The single one and a half story structure was built in the style known as "Richardsonian Romanesque". Henry H. Richardson has been recognized as one of the few, great American architects and his interpretation of Romanesque forms influenced a whole generation of architects, including the architect who designed the B&O depot. The style is easily identified by the heavy masonry construction, the Roman arches, and the deep window recesses. The exterior is of stone, brick and wood construction and the 4,200 square-foot interior is of plaster and quarter-sawn white oak hardwoods, including the floors. The hip roof is red quarry tile.

The depot is framed nicely on opening weekend with old automobiles and the Ohio Central tool car.

The restoration of Mount Vernon's B&O depot may be one of the largest private-public projects in the history of the City. The City of Mount Vernon purchased the depot from CSX Transportation in late 2002 for $160,000. Work commenced on the structure in 2003 and was completed in 2007, in time for the depot s 100th anniversary. All new electric wire was threaded through the existing conduit; new plumbing was added, and the installation of a 6-ton geo-thermal heating and air conditioning system replaced the original boiler-fired steam heat. All interior woodwork (except for the floor) was stripped of varnish and restored to its original look. A new, quarter-sawn white oak floor replaced the yellow pine floor that was installed in the late 1950s. Insulation was added around the stone base and in the attic. Total cost of the restoration was $824,000, with 54 percent of the funds coming from private donations, and $14,000 was donated in services or products. No state or federal funds were used in the purchase or restoration of the building.

The main waiting room, before restoration. Note the damage to the ceiling.

The main waiting room for the station. Apart from the floor, everything else was complete enough for restoration.

A grand opening was held October 18-21, 2007 where the public was invited to tour the building. The Ohio Central Railroad loaned 4-6-2 steam locomotive 1293 for the occasion, which sat in front of the station the entire weekend.

Ohio Central 1293 steams at the depot on opening weekend.

Ohio Central 1293 poses for photographers in the early morning light on opening weekend.

The depot is leased by the Knox County Art League, who holds arts shows and programs in the depot. Individuals and organizations may also use the depot for special events, such as a dinner or retreat, for a small fee. A non-profit board maintains and runs the depot on behalf of the City.

The upstairs of the depot has been converted to a small meeting space, with a custom-made white oak conference table and leather chairs. Railroad-themed photographs line the wall.

One last bit of history. This story has been repeated so often in Knox County that it must be true.

The plans for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad station arrived in Mount Vernon on June 15, 1906. The structure was to be built during the summer. But that was before love was in the air.

It seems the railroad planned a more modest, frame structure for Mount Vernon and an elaborate, stone depot for Sandusky, Ohio, (then the northern terminal of the railroad). The frame building would take less than six months to construct while the stone structure a great deal longer. The person in charge of depot construction for the B&O fell in love with a Mount Vernon woman and wished to spend as much time with her as possible. No problem; he simply switched plans. Mount Vernon got the wonderful stone and brick building while Sandusky received the wood frame depot.

And the supervisor got to spend more time in Mount Vernon.

The 100 year old Baltimore & Ohio Railroad depot is all lit up, ready for its grand reopening.

For information about the depot, including the restoration or use of photographs of the depot, please contact:

Phil Samuell (psamuell@mountvernondepot.org)
B&O Railroad Depot
507 West High Street
Mount Vernon, Ohio 43050

For information on reserving the depot for an event, the Knox County Art League handles reservations and collects user fees on behalf of the depot. Please call them at:

Knox County Art League (kcal@mountvernondepot.org)
B&O Railroad Depot

More information, as well as additional restoration photographs can also be found on their website, located at mountvernondepot.org.