The more than 100-year-old Leesburg train depot, which at one time was scheduled to be razed, has gained a new lease on life after being purchased by a local historical organization.
Unlike Greenfield and Hillsboro, which preserved their railroad depots by relocating them, the Leesburg Area Historical Society plans to keep the Leesburg depot in its present location, according to society secretary Alice Teeters.
The first step in acquiring ownership of the old building was obtaining non-profit status for the organization, but she said a grassroots effort at saving the historic structure began more than 15 years ago. Last year her group began making serious inquiries about buying the structure from the owner, CSX Corp.
“The village wrote a letter to CSX to get a response on getting contact information,” she said. “Their intent was to either demolish an unsightly, dilapidated building that could have some safety and liability issues, or to see if this grassroots effort could try to save it.”
She said that once contact had been made with CSX representatives, negotiations at gaining a title for the building began with the first order of business being executing a new boundary line survey.
Further negotiations continued as to agreements that would go into the deed, and she said that last week everything came together with the historical society securing ownership. The ultimate plan is to either convert it into a small museum or a gathering place for local activities.
But now that the local group owns the building, Teeters said that extensive restoration will need to be done to erase years of neglect.
“Even before we got ownership of the depot, we were able to get a grant from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission,” she said. “It’s a $100,000 grant, but it’s a matching grant, which means we have to raise $50,000 locally either in donations, work or materials for this building in order to get the full amount of grant money.”
The historical society’s goal is to focus on the local history and culture of Leesburg, with the idea of a museum to house items that she said many in the area have said they would be willing to loan or donate to a permanent museum facility.
Combining highlights of Leesburg’s history with the history of rail service to the village is a primary goal of the organization, Teeters said, adding the rail line is still active and provides regular delivery of supplies to Candle-lite, which the company said has been a part of Leesburg’s historic infrastructure for 179 years.
Economics aside, Teeters said there is a certain nostalgia about the railroads and that the train station in Leesburg brings back warm memories of a time past.
“I remember when the train stopped for passengers here,” she said. “My dad had a cousin who would come up from Cincinnati to visit and when it was time for him to go back home, I wanted to get up in the train car to see what it looked like up in there since I was only 4 years old at the time.”
She said she feels that there is a touch of romance to the trains because they represent a time where the pace of life was slower, the nation was different, and they are a link to the past and still occupy an important aspect of commerce in the present.
In addition to Teeters’ position as secretary, the Leesburg Area Historical Society consists of president Ken Worley, vice president Curt Shanks, publicity chairman Nicole Friend and treasurer Morgan Sheppard.
Teeters said if individuals want to make a pledge to support the groups’ efforts at restoring the railroad depot, mail a note indicating the pledge amount with name, address and phone number, or mail a check or money order to LAHS, P.O. Box 63, Leesburg, Ohio 45153.
For further information on the organization and depot restoration plans, Teeters advised visiting Facebook.com/Leesburg History or email [email protected]
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.