Orange Train Depot could get makeover
City leaders of Orange attended a press conference at the City Council chambers on Wednesday, Jan. 8, to hear about a new nonprofit’s effort to restore the historical Southern Pacific Railroad depot on Green Avenue.
The depot was built in 1902 and has been unused for decades. Former Orange resident Carrie Joiner Woliver and her husband Ron of Houston recently purchased the structure called “The Gateway to Orange” and plan to renovate the depot in hopes to revitalize the community. Woliver is president of the newly formed non-profit organization “The Friends of the Orange Depot,” which she founded specifically to raise funds for the restoration and run the depot upon completion.
Orange Mayor Jimmy Sims said he believes the depot’s restoration will be a boon to the city’s development.
“As community stakeholders continue to focus on downtown redevelopment of Orange – the Stark Foundation, the Lamar State College in Orange – the train depot will definitely enhance those efforts, as well,” Sims said at the meeting.
Carrie Woliver said they and purchased the depot, now under the ownership of The Friends of the Orange Depot, because she wanted to see the once bustling but now decaying structure brought back to life.
“This is a landmark building that really will mark the importance of the railroad in this town’s history,” Carrie said. “Something has to be done. We have to save this depot.”
Woliver said the depot marks the beginning of the historic district in Orange, and her grandparents Will and Pearl Joiner lived only two blocks from the depot, which was a “hubbub of activity in 1917,” and as a child she played on the railroad tracks with her cousin. Carrie said the railroad and depot have influenced Orange and influenced her, as well. She even used a picture of the train depot on the cover of the book “The Train Stopped in Orange,” which she wrote after discovering her grandparents’ diaries. Her book includes the Joiner family history, history of the city, historical photos and excerpts from the diaries.
Carrie Woliver and her group are brainstorming fundraising ideas for the depot’s restoration. The Victorian-style depot will be transformed into a multi-use building, providing a reception room, a museum, a gift shop and a conference room for use by various organizations in Orange. The restoration planning is being led by architect Rob Clark of Architectural Alliance. Clark unveiled plans for the depot at the Jan. 8 press conference. Clark and associate Nina Rivers, a registered interior designer, indicated they plan to retain as much of the original architectural elements as possible in hopes the building will be eligible to receive the marker of the National Register of Historic Places. Clark pointed to a “spectacular window with diamond glass” he intends to keep. He also discovered what he called “an interesting interior jewel,” an original Queen Anne style built-in desk with decorative legs in the ticketing office following the outside three walls of the project bay below the building’s octagonal turret.
Heading the Friends of the Orange Depot are Carrie Woliver, who is president, vice presidents Diana Hill and Brown Claybar of Orange, and former Orange resident Bill Shaddock of Dallas, and secretary Ron Woliver. Volunteers are welcome to participate. The fundraising goal for the restoration and subsequent operations expenses has been set at $600,000. Carrie Woliver said she would like to see the Friends hold one big annual fundraiser in the years to come in order to raise funds to keep the depot up and running. The group is seeking donations from area business leaders and residents and will announce plans for fundraising events soon. Donations by cash or check are being accepted and should be mailed to the Friends of the Orange Depot account at the First Financial Bank, 812 N. 16th St., Orange, TX 77631.
“Our project will continue the revitalization of downtown Orange, with the help of everyone in the community who will benefit from its restoration, now and in the future,” Carrie Woliver concluded. The completed depot will be called “The Gateway to the Historic District.”