Historian urges giving to save Saluda train depot

Published 10:42 pm Thursday, March 26, 2015

Dr. George Jones, historian and founder of the Henderson County Genealogical and Historical Society, spoke at the March 15 official launch of fundraising efforts to purchase the historic depot in Saluda, N.C. by a newly formed non-profit, Saluda Historic Depot. The event was held to kick off a fundraiser to match a challenge pledge of $50,000 if another $50,000 is raised by March 31, 2015.

The depot sits on historic Main Street at the crest of the steepest mainline standard gauge railroad in the United States. The current depot building, built in 1903, is at least the second depot constructed in Saluda. Moved to its current location on Main Street in 1983, it originally sat further out of town. This particular structure is also a contributing structure on the National Register of Historic Places in the listing for the Saluda Main Street Historic District.

Once the depot is purchased, the Historic Saluda Committee will spearhead efforts to open a train/historical museum and collaborate with other organizations to include a visitors center within its walls.

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Dr. Jones encouraged the citizens of Saluda to participate in this fundraising effort. “I am the oldest living person born in Saluda. I’ll be 95 years old in August. The rest of you are late comers or just arrived,” says Dr. Jones.

He told the story about Saluda’s beginnings when Burrell Pace received a land grant and the area was named Pace’s Gap before it was Saluda.

“Saluda has a great history, not a long one but a great one. The railroad didn’t have to have a right away. They could take one. The railroad had eminent domain so they brought the railroad right through Cornelius Pace’s property.

“The early families that came here were the Wards, the Paces, and the Statons from over in Greenville County. The Laughters, Thompsons and Bradleys came out of Rutherford, and some came from S.C. The Arledges, Newmans, and Holberts came from Fairfield County, S.C. as a group. Saluda has a colorful history and you would do well to develop this museum and preserve it for people to see, read, and understand,” Dr. Jones said.

He strongly urged the citizens of Saluda to decide what it’s worth to the community and individually to preserve the depot and Saluda’s history.

“It’s a valuable opportunity. You have an opportunity to participate in it, you’ll never regret it, and as you develop it you will all be proud. I hope you all respond, readily,” advised Dr. Jones.

Dr. Jones was instrumental in working with Henderson County to restore the historic courthouse. It cost $11 million to restore the Henderson County Courthouse in Hendersonville.

“It’s there, the county has it paid for and it’s in good shape.  Incidentally, it was voted unanimously to float the bonds of $11 million to do it. It can be done, if each one of you will do your duty, see the value of this project, step up and do it, you’ll have it solved,” he said.

If you would like to climb aboard and help preserve the historic Saluda Depot for future generations, you can send donations or pledges to Saluda Historic Depot, P.O. Box 990, Saluda, NC 28773 or email savesaludadepot@gmail.com. All donations are tax deductible and pledges will be invoiced within six months.

The historic depot is a modern icon of Saluda’s beginning and subsequent prosperity with the coming of the train bringing passengers up the Saluda Grade, the steepest mainline standard gauge grade in the country. Because brave men built a railroad up a steep mountain, the small mountain village of Saluda is a thriving community with a historic downtown district with prospering shops and restaurants.

More information, details, and photos can be found at historicsaluda.org.
– Submitted by Cathy Jackson