In the News

Gillhams Plan to Buy Old Columbia Depot

By Lisa Roose-Church

From The Daily Herald, October 1, 1995

Gillham Columbia

The Colombia Depot was built in 1902 and has not been used since 1954.

Fred Gillham Sr, majority stockholder of TIMCO Inc., hopes to change that. Gillham Sr. received the Columbia depot from his wife, Kelli Gillham as a birthday gift.

“He asked for the depot,” Kelli Gillham said.

So, she gave it to him.

The Gillham’s are currently negotiating with the owner, J.A. (Peggy) Morgan, wife of the late Buddy Morgan who served as Columbia city Mayor.

Peggy Morgan said her husband purchased the depot in 1985 to keep it from being torn down. She added that her husband tried to donate it to the historical society, but they were not interested due to the cost of upkeep.

Peggy Morgan said she believes her husband would have been pleased the Gillhams are purchasing the depot.

“I decided to sell to Fred (Gillham) because he knows about restoration,” Morgan said. “And, Buddy would want someone to have it who will care for it.”

Peggy Morgan added she hoped Fred Gillham can have it restored before it deteriorated any further.

Fred Gillham said he plans to begin restoration when he closed on the purchase. He said he would like to restore the station to its original state.

Fred Gillham said he has no immediate plans for the station; however, he would like to see train cars and possibly a museum housed in the station.

“I would like to see a restaurant in half of the station and a museum in the other half,” Gillham said. “That would be great if I could find someone interested in opening a restaurant at the depot”

Fred Gillham encourages anyone who has photographs or historical information about the depot to contact him.

Although the station is referred to as the Columbia Depot, it was once named Union Station.

It is so named because it became the hub – or center – of activity for two railroads, the Duck River Valley Rail Road and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.

Jill Garret, Columbia historian, said during its heyday, the depot was the center of transportation for freight shipping in Columbia and Maury County.

According to previous writings, the mail service and the Railway Express Agency, a parcel service, were both important side ventures of the railroad and operated offices out of the depot.

Formal gardens were located at the east and west sides of the depot.

The depot was built on the request of W.F. Whitthorne and John P McGaw, local capitalists who persuaded the Louisville and Nashville Railroad to build the new depot.

The city of Columbia’s government voted to appropriate “a sum not to exceed $10,000 as its contribution, “according to previous articles. The final constructions cost exceed $200,000 which the railway absorbed the additional costs.

Garrett said during construction a number of grading problems arose. She said that as a result of this, and parent’s fear their children would be hurt at the railroad, an underground passage – known as the Rat Hole – was built to allow children safe thoroughfare.

The Interstate Commerce Commission approved an application to abandon the Duck River Valley line between Columbia and Lewisburg. According to previous writings, less than a year later the Louisville and Nashville Railroad shut down passenger operations.

Eventually the Railway Express Agency closed and with the introduction of cars the depot became obsolete.

In 1982 the depot was purchased by Seaboard Coast Line Rail Road Company and was then sold to John (Buddy) Morgan. Fred Gillham said he is anxious to begin restoration. He estimates it will cost about $300,000 to check the structure safety.

He said he would like to have a portion of the depot open for visiting sometime in October.

aBOUt exists to showcase the rich architecture and history in Columbia, Tennessee through highlighting properties owned by David and Debra Hill. Each property has gone through extensive preservation and restoration to become timeless landmarks of the community. Mr. and Mrs. Hill were presented with the Association of the Preservation of Tennessee Antiques (APTA) Virginia Alexander Volunteer of the Year Award in 2019 for their historic preservation efforts in Maury County.