MURPHYSBORO — Murphysboro's Old Depot has new owners who say they are dedicated to making the historical building a focal point of the city.
According to an announcement from Murphysboro Main Street, the organization was gifted the building by former owners Alison and Steve Carter.
The organization plans a major renovation to the building, with the goal of using it as office space for Murphysboro Main Street as well as a welcome center for the city.
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In a Tuesday night announcement on Facebook, Murphysboro Main Street said the Old Depot was built in 1888 and is the former Mobile and Ohio Railroad station, the largest on the Mobile and Ohio line between St. Louis and Cairo. After 90 years of continuous operation, the depot closed in December 1977 when the railway became part of the Illinois Central system. The depot was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.
The transfer of ownership comes after eight years of back-and-forth between the city and Martin Schaldemose, who had previously been in contract with the Carters to own the building. Schaldemose was regularly scolded by city officials to take better care of the property and to fix several public safety concerns like large holes in the roof.
But, Murphysboro Mayor Will Stephens said he was enthusiastic about Murphysboro Main Street taking over the property.
"The Old Depot is more than a building, it is a part of the character of the Murphysboro Community. Thanks to Murphysboro Main Street, the Old Depot once again has a bright future,” Stephens said in a Wednesday message to The Southern.
Paula Maloney is the Murphysboro Main Street committee chair for the Old Depot restoration project. She was thrilled when the details of the transfer coalesced at the end of last year.
“Our committee welcomed the gift and feel that we are up for the challenge to take it to the next level and get it user-friendly,” Maloney told The Southern Wednesday.
“It’s always kind of served as a beacon in Murphysboro,” she said.
Scott Evans is on the Old Depot committee with Maloney. He said MMS did its research before agreeing to accept the Carters’ gift. But he said the poor condition of the Old Depot’s roof, among other things, were well-known before they really dug in to the details.
“There weren’t too many surprises we encountered in our due diligence,” he said. He said he and others worked to make sure there wasn’t a major risk in taking on the Old Depot.
“We certainly knew that there would be expenses … just by us saying ‘Yes we’ll take this building,’” he said before noting that there were some costs that couldn’t be exactly known until MMS took ownership of the building.
“There was a little bit of a leap of faith to some degree,” he said.
Maloney said she and her committee are up for the challenge. But, she said, it’s still early in the process.
“We have not even met with a contractor,” she said. But she hopes that they will chip away at the myriad repairs and remodeling the building needs, and in about two years have something big to show for it.
Maloney credited the Carters with their decision to see the Old Depot restored.
“They’d like to see this be something that the whole community is proud to present and (they have) a lot of faith in us,” Maloney said.
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