In the News
New Life Planned for Century Old Train Depot
After decades of uncertainty and dilapidation, the Columbia Union Station train depot is getting a makeover.
A standing-room only crowd in the depot’s old waiting room on Depot Street Sunday anxiously waited to hear what David Hill had planned for the building, which he recently purchased from foreclosure.
The reception was part of the Maury County Historical Society’s January meeting, and the depot was opened to the public for the first time in years to give long-time Columbia residents and curious newcomers alike the chance to see the interior of the old station.
The crowd buzzed with memories of the building in its heyday. Visitors gazed toward the soaring ceilings, with remnants of original light fixtures and molding still intact. Below their feet, intricately-lain tile, worn smooth from the hustle and bustle of yesteryear’s railroad travelers, were evidence of the workmanship that went into the building when construction began in 1902.
The crowd buzzed with memories of the building in its heyday.
The old structure was stabilized in the 1980s after former Mayor Buddy Morgan purchased it from Louisville and Nashville Railroad, Maury County Historian Bob Duncan said, but now decades of neglect threaten to overpower the building’s dusty beauty.
Copies of original blueprints displayed Sunday gave visitors a look at the depot’s former contents — with cargo areas, ticket counters, offices and even segregated waiting rooms and restrooms labeled on the plans.
The depot served as Maury County’s main transportation hub until passenger service to the city was discontinued in the 1960s, and was eventually abandoned after it spent a few years serving the community’s freight and parcel transportation needs.
Hill, who has also purchased and restored other historical properties like Mayes Place on W. 6th Street and Skipwith Hall on Williamsport Pike, said he’s not sure what the depot will eventually hold, but he assured eager historical enthusiasts at Sunday’s reception it’s his goal to restore it to “better than original” condition.
“That’s the overlying goal, though, is to make it as close to original as we can, and it’s little surprises like that that keep you optimistic about it,” he said.
Hill even bought back five original window frames from the Columbia Flea Market after he stumbled across an online classified while researching the station, he said.
“I think when we get through with it, it’ll be a real jewel — like it was in the past,” Hill said.
That’s good news for history buffs in Maury County and across the state. In 2009 the depot was added to the Tennessee Preservation Trust’s “Ten in Tennessee” list of endangered properties, with preservationists hoping to call attention to the landmark that served as a major hub of the community until it fell victim to decades of neglect.
Hill is in the process of reviewing construction bids. Whether the depot is converted into a museum, an antiques showroom, an events venue or a restaurant, he said he doesn’t intend to let one of Columbia’s precious historical properties succumb to the elements, at least not for another century.
HillHistoricProperties.com 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.