The Lincoln Depot is a vital part of the local
history. Built in 1910 the Depot served as the train station for the
community for many years. Later as the demand for a full service
station waned, the small Amtrak waiting station was built to be
utilized by travelers, and the Depot building was purchased and
turned into a restaurant.
After operating as a restaurant for several years, the Depot closed
and became one of Lincoln’s abandoned buildings. For many in the
community it was sad to see such a significant and attractive
historical site going by the wayside. Attempts by the city of
Lincoln to purchase the building had been unsuccessful, and for a
time it looked like the Depot was destined to stand vacant until it
would eventually fall into disrepair.
In 2011, the Illinois Department of Transportation announced that
there would be a high-speed rail project from Alton to Chicago that
would pass through Lincoln. Part of the plan included new tracks and
crossings, and the renovation of the Depot.
After that announcement, it took approximately three years for the
big announcement to come that the IDOT, with federal funding, had
secured the Depot and would be doing the renovation. When the
building was fully restored it would be given back to the city of
Lincoln to maintain and utilize.
There was a lot of work involved in restoring the historic building
to its original footprint including the removal of the rails cars
and cabooses that had been part of the restaurant. The renovation
included removing a sunroom feature on the front and a deck from the
back, rebuilding the entry way, and much more.
In December of 2017 the Depot was officially turned back over to the
city of Lincoln. It took a few weeks for all the final paperwork to
be processed, but once it was done, the city began discussing the
future of the building.
The board members of the Logan County Tourism Bureau had expressed
strong interest in moving into the building and making it the new
home of the bureau. For the board, the location seemed to make a
great deal of sense. The Depot offered train travelers easy access
to tourist information, and being located in the heart of our
historic town plus right along the original Route 66, the Depot had
ties to much of our history and access to tourism traffic in the
In May of 2018, the Depot was officially leased in its entirety to
the LCTB. It was a big beautiful space with lots of potential and
the board started out by establishing a committee to meet and
discuss a vision for the building, and to create a plan to go along
with the vision.
Committee meetings were held separately from the monthly board
meetings, but on more than a few occasions it was the full board who
was on hand for the special meetings. The core members of the
committee included Kevin Bateman, Morgan Gleason, Tom McLaughlin,
Steve Parrott, Nila Smith, Tracy Welch and Marilyn Wheat. Other
board members that participated on a regular basis included Gail
Apel-Sasse, Emily Davenport, Kathy Horn and Shawn Taylor.
The first order of business was perhaps the most difficult, to
determine the vision for the building. The committee was made up of
a dedicated group with lots of good ideas. A master plan was created
and the committee began working on making the plan a reality.
The obvious location for tourism staff offices would be the original
ticket and telegraph office. That left the north room, south room
and front entry way as a blank canvas for the committee.
Keeping in mind the bureau’s function to promote tourism throughout
the county and to provide visitors with information about all that
Logan County has to offer, the group decided information kiosks
would be placed in the south room. Wood and glass display cases
would provide local attraction displays.
Kiosks were the one exception that had to be purchased from outside
the area, everything else in the Depot was locally sourced.
Office furniture was ordered through the former Furniture Gallery.
The glass cases were hand made to tourism specifications by local
furniture maker Jason Hoffman.
It was fortunate for everyone that this was the year Hoffman decided
to leave his teaching career at Lincoln Community High School and
focus his attention on his art and the art of making furniture.
Hoffman was meticulous in matching the stain colors for the wood
with woodwork inside the Depot and creating cabinets that were ideal
for the location.
It was board member Kevin Bateman who from the beginning said that
the bayed window area in the south end of the Depot had to be a
testament to Abraham Lincoln. From that window, guests can look out
and see the watermelon statue on the Depot lawn that signifies the
christening of the town by Abraham Lincoln.
Gail Aple-Sasse was the first to mention the Abraham Lincoln
Christening statue at the State Bank of Lincoln, Sangamon Branch.
That bank holds a large number of Abraham Lincoln art and artifacts.
However, the bank has done some re-purposing of that branch and it
no longer draws the foot traffic it did in past years.
State Bank President Steve Aughenbaugh and the bank board agreed to
loan the christening statue, and in early spring, Brad Matthews and
his crew from Matthews Construction carefully moved the statue.
It was quite the spectacle for observers as Mr. Lincoln walked
across the street and the railroad tracks and into the Depot,
stopping for a few photo ops, then set on a platform made by
[to top of second column]
The loan from the bank also included real-life
cast molds of Lincoln hands. While the statue is a hands off
display, Hoffman was called upon to build a stand for the hands so
that they could be touched by those who visit the Depot.
Stewart and Linda Churchill of Lincoln donated an antique
china/curio cabinet to the depot and it is now the honored home of
the first clay model of the Lincoln statue that stands on the Logan
County Courthouse lawn. The clay model was presented to the LCTB by
the Logan County Genealogical and Historical Society. Also on
display in that cabinet is the album cover from the Traveling
Wilburrys that features the Lincoln Depot.
Another china/curio cabinet was purchased from ReNew Consignment and
Thrift that closely matches the one given by the Churchills. It is
in the north room of the Depot and features a display of Stetson
China products provided by LCG&H, Marilyn Wheat, Tracy Welch and
The South Room
The committee wanted the south building of the Depot
to be about tourism within the county.
The glass cases are filled with items from the LCG&HS and from
Heritage in Flight Museum in Lincoln. There are items provided by
the Mount Pulaski Township Historical Society, the Elkhart
Historical Society, Atlanta, the Pig Hip, and the Mill on Route 66
Museum. Photos on the wall in the south building were provided by
Elkhart and Atlanta.
The North Room
In the north room, the bureau wanted to emulate the look of the
original train station waiting area. After searching for benches for
that room great fortune struck. St. John’s United Church of Christ
said that they were doing some restructuring and were going to have
some extra pews. A modest amount was agreed on and the pews were
then refinished by Hoffman to match the woodwork colors in the
Photos on display in the north room are from the turn of the 20th
century. They are reprints made from glass negatives and were given
to the bureau on long-term loan by the Lincoln Heritage Museum. The
shots include many Lincoln cityscapes, and points of interest
include Lincoln College and the downtown Lincoln area.
Photos were also reprinted from a collection at the Lincoln Public
Library and feature a photo of the trolley car days with the track
and car traversing Kickapoo Street. Other photos include the Lincoln
Library and the Logan County Courthouse.
Many of the items in the building have plaques hanging with them
explaining the scene above. Those plaques and a number of other
items were manufactured by Small Town Creations in Lincoln.
Posters, photo reprints and the large ‘Where are you from” world map
inside the front door of the building were printed by Lincoln
The television/monitors in the entryway and north room were
purchased from Wal-Mart, who gave the bureau some special pricing in
support of the project.
Throughout the building there are a number of Route 66 décor items,
the majority of which were purchased locally at Abe’s Carmelcorn
shop in Lincoln.
All in all, the board is thrilled with the way the Depot has come
together and they are anxious for everyone to come in and see it on
Marilyn Wheat commented, “The Depot looks great! Our director and
staff have done a wonderful job decorating. We have a good board and
I’m proud to serve on it.”
Kathie Williams of Small Town Creations officially became a member
of the Tourism Board in May of this year. She offered her comment on
the end result of the board’s efforts. “Morgan has done a wonderful
job working with the community in decorating the interior of the
building with artifacts that emphasize the history of Lincoln and
Board member Shawn Taylor said, “I think the renovation to the
tourism bureau has kept the look and feel of the new Depot intact!
Lincoln Ward One Alderman and Tourism Board member Tracy Welch
commented, “I would like to commend the Tourism Board and staff for
their efforts to create a world class tourism program in the
recently renovated Depot. I am extremely proud of their dedication
to promote all things Logan County.”
Logan County Board Chairman and Tourism Board member Emily Davenport
noted, "It truly takes a village to make things happen and the newly
remodeled Depot proves that. The Tourism Bureau Board and staff are
very determined to make Logan County shine as bright as it can when
it comes to attracting tourists and educating people about
everything our wonderful county has to offer."
While the Depot appears to be done, it is one of those projects that
will never really be finished. As our community grows and evolves,
tourism needs to keep up, and the display items within the Depot
will undoubtedly change from time to time.
The Bureau Board and staff want to thank all those who have been a
part of this big project. They want to thank the city of Lincoln for
seeing that the LCTB would have value as a part of the downtown area
and for entrusting them with a valued piece of Lincoln history.