Old L&R Train Depot has finally found a new home
Situated at the corner of Feamster Road and Clay Street, just kitty-corner from the old Bowling School, the L&R Train Depot, though still undergoing construction, makes an imposing presence on the street scape.
The top floor, which was removed during the early morning transit from Echols Lane on a recent Sunday, is being freshly reconstructed. The foundation, at present, appears to be elevated, but once the landscaping is added, the building will suitably conform with the surroundings. Soon, it will sport a front porch and a tin roof and new siding. The depot’s iconic gingerbread grid work has been preserved and will grace the front and sides when the remodeling is complete.
The depot had been sited on Echols Lane for around 50 years as a residence, where it was moved after no longer servicing the area as a train depot. The long years took a toll on it, and the present owners, Bill, Deborah and Rachel Johnson, realizing they needed a larger home, approached the Lewisburg Historic Landmarks Commission (HLC) for permission to demolish it so they could install a modular home in its place. The HLC, recognizing that the historic structure was perhaps the last of a unique piece of history, began a search for an alternate solution and put out requests for another home site. The public was intrigued and curious, and the Johnson family endured a fair amount of unwelcome attention, but they remained patient and persevering until a new location for the old structure was found. Several options appeared – and disappeared, until local realtor Alinda Perrine approached the Johnsons with a plan for moving the depot to Feamster Road.
Not that it’s been easy.
“This is actually a story in progress,” Perrine said. “We’re excited to see something actively happening. It’s been going on since January.” The whole process has taken months, from finding a house mover and coordinating with the contractor to attending to the legal and technical details required for compliance with city code.
And, there’s more yet to do. A variance will be required in order to restore the front porch, which serves, in part, to protect the old ticket booth, Perrine said. “It’s amazing how much we’ve managed to save.” Some things, though, just had to go. The old roof, for example, wouldn’t pass code. The complete remodeling and refurbishing work on the depot will include three bedrooms, new windows and a fresh interior look, banishing the dated 1970’s paneling. When it’s time to paint the house, they will select an authentic, circa 1906 depot paint color for the exterior. Right now they are looking for a front door to match the original depot entry.
“We’ve tried to keep the best of the old and add the best of the new,” Perrine said.
Perrine extolled the skills of the mover, Jim Martin of House Movers, Inc. from Lesage in Cabell County, who is the only house mover still in operation in West Virginia. The tricky business of setting the house down on the new foundation was a point of confidence she expressed for the building contractor, Adam Whanger Construction, for having set the concrete blocks so accurately that the mover called it the finest job he’d seen.
The construction crew have begun to refer to the depot as a “she” because, Perrine said with a laugh, this has certainly been a “high maintenance” project.
The house-moving process was documented on film by photographer Amanda Reed, and a film crew will soon visit the site to further record the progress of the depot story. Perrine said she and her husband, Bob, plan to establish the residence as a rental property.