Virginia town closes in on depot restoration

RELATED TOPICS: PASSENGER | NORFOLK SOUTHERN | SOUTHEAST
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BoonesMillcontemporary
Cosmetic restoration efforts are ongoing on the Boones Mill, Va. freight and passenger station in central Virginia.
Mike Smith
BoonesMillDepothistoric
Passengers board a N&W passenger train in this historic photo of the Boones Mill, Va. depot.
Town of Boones Mill collection
BOONES MILL, Va. — A depot dating back a century-and-a-quarter in south-central Virginia could reopen later this year as restoration efforts continue, and one of the centerpieces will be the restored office of one of the depot’s longtime station masters.

Town Council member Mike Smith says restoration of the freight and passenger depot in the hamlet of around 240 people is about 65% complete, and the hope is to have the depot open by winter 2019. Smith says the depot has been repainted and the roof has been repaired, and volunteers are currently working to re-install the decking on the outside of the depot to allow visitors to enter. “Once we get that decking completed, we can open it up to the public,” Smith says. “That’s what we’re hoping to do soon. We can’t let people in until we have something for them to walk on.”

The depot was constructed in 1892 by the Roanoke & Southern Railway along what today is Norfolk Southern’s Roanoke, Va.-to-Winston-Salem, N.C., line, commonly known as the Pumpkin Vine. The depot served the Roanoke & Southern and successor the Norfolk & Western until the building was closed in 1970. Smith says the depot was slated for demolition by NS, but the railroad sold the depot to Boones Mill for $1 in 2012. The depot, he says, was moved across the tracks to its current location on city property in 2014 by Wolfe Moving of Pennsylvania and restoration efforts kicked off in January 2018.

Smith says one of the more interesting exhibits in the depot will be the restoration of the office of a longtime station master, Digby Green, who worked in the station for three decades. Smith says Green lived across the tracks from the depot and, despite his close proximity, would drive his car, which he nicknamed “Old Betsy,” to work each day. When it became necessary to move the depot in 2014, it was Green’s son, Robert Green, who donated the $58,000 needed to move the depot. Smith says that donation saved the depot.

The Boones Mill depot is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Smith says the plan is to keep the depot as original as possible. “Lots of depots, when they’re restored, will have a restaurant put in them or some other business and I think that makes them lose some of their historical significance,” Smith says. “We want to keep it as original as possible. Several of the original items that were in the depot have been donated back to us and they’re going to be on-display when we open.” Smith says several pieces of furniture from Digby Green’s office have been donated for placement in the depot.

Smith says the restoration of the Boones Mill depot has been aided by grants, but the project is still largely dependent upon donations in order to meet matching contribution requirements for some grants. Those interested in donating to the project can visit www.townofboonesmill.org for contact information.
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