Landrum Depot re-opens for community to enjoyPublished 10:52pm Monday, November 18, 2013
by Kiesa Kay
Bill Steward has found the recipe for French toast served on the Santa Fe Railway in 1918, and he shared it at the Landrum Depot re-opening ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 16, along with anecdotes about railway life.
“Even as a little boy, my Bill liked railroads. He and his mother visited his favorite aunt during World War II, and he’d watch the tracks, wondering where people were going,” said Bill’s wife, Barbara Steward, as she watched him entertain more than 100 visitors to the reopening of the Landrum Depot.
The brass section of the Landrum High School Band played favorites like, “When the Saints Go Marching In,” “Minuet” and “Simple Gifts.” Deb Bradner and Barbara Cameron-Decker, band moms both, listened with pride.
Jean Chesnutt attended with her husband, Pat, and she talked about her hopes for the depot.
“I’m the Mailroom lady, and we’ve watched the depot go up,” she said. “I hope it means we’re bringing back some of the old ways to our town.”
Ken Brackett, owner of Ken’s Fine Meats and Seafoods, said he appreciated the care with which the many artifacts he’d found onsite had been displayed at the depot.
His finds included bottles from the Prohibition era marked with labels exhorting, “Federal law forbids sale or reuse of this bottle.”
The depot opening brought railroad enthusiasts from across two states, including Malcolm A. Mather of Fountain Inn, S.C., and Tom Manske of Simpsonville, S.C.
“We have been collecting railroad memorabilia since we were little kids,” Manske said. “This depot’s restoration preserves the railroad industry, which meant so much to this country. The railroad tracks weren’t built through towns. The towns built up around those railroad tracks. This county couldn’t be where it is today if not for the railroad and how it expanded, and brought people to new places.”
Dale Culbreth, Spartanburg County Commissioner, read a proclamation at the ribbon-cutting by Mayor Bob Briggs, and many of the individuals instrumental in the depot’s restoration were on hand to celebrate the completion of an important civic and historical achievement.
Some of those individuals included project initiator Steve Wolochowicz, former city administrator; John Walters, architect; Danny Owens, contractor; and city council members Johnny Carruth, Jan Horton, Billy Inman, Jon Matheis, Don Smith and Joyce Whiteside.
The mayor shared some enlightening history. In the 1880s, a U.S. marshal of Spartanburg County attended the first opening day, Briggs said, but he had some trouble getting along with the area moonshiners at that time. On that day, someone shot the marshal dead at the railway station.
Brackett found some spent shotgun shells when he went across the land with a metal detector, and observers speculate they could from that very day.
The event drew many residents with fond memories of the railroad in Landrum in times past.
Doug Brannon, state representative for the 38th District, attended with his wife, Tracey, and they congratulated the city.
Culbreth added, “I grew up seeing this depot. We used to peddle peaches down the road and at the depot on Saturdays. I grew up here, and my wife’s family lived at the foot of the mountain. I think it’s great to hold onto that history.”
Jack Stone used to run a bank in Landrum for 35 years, from 1947 until 1987, and he remembered the railroad from an earlier era.
“It means a lot to everyone here,” he said. “My wife and I would come to watch the trains, especially as diesel engines replaced coal burners. It was a good attraction on a Sunday afternoon. I married a local girl, Mary Jo Littlefield. Her father was a horse trader. She and her friend, Frances Landrum used to get on the train, go spend the day in Tryon, and return that night. It cost a dime. She died two years ago, and she would have been so glad to see this.”
Tom Phelps, president of the Asheville chapter of the National Railroad Society, attended with his wife, Kati, secretary of that chapter.
“It’s honoring history,” Kati Phelps said.
Landrum Quilters also honored history by placing a quilt square on the front of the building, with a special pattern called Railroad Tracks that blends with the color of the building. It will be lit up at night.
The Landrum City Council has decided that the depot will be available for rentals by civic and community organizations.
Rental will be as low as $25 for a half day for nonprofit organizations that use the depot at least four times a year. The daily rental will be $100 for residents and $150 for non-residents, with special fees for those celebrations that might feature alcohol.
“The depot has been a gathering place for the community for Landrum so long, and I really consider it more evidence that Landrum truly is the crown jewel of Spartanburg County,” Culbreth said.