Ribbon Cut

Lincoln Depot Open House set for Thursday, June 13th
Come see the finished interior

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[June 11, 2019]  After just a little over one year of work by a dedicated committee, the Logan County Tourism Bureau located in the Lincoln Depot building is excited to invite the community to an open house from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 13th.

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 area.

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 Hoffman.

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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 Nila Smith.

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 Depot.

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 Printers.

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 Thursday evening.

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 Logan County!”

Board member Shawn Taylor said, “I think the renovation to the tourism bureau has kept the look and feel of the new Depot intact! Very classy!”

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.

[Nila Smith]

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