TRANSCRIPT: Danville's 151-year-old train station is getting a makeover
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Danville’s historic train station is getting a makeover. The iconic building is the oldest train station on the Lake Champlain to Saint Johnsbury line. But the work is more than just construction and preservation.
Outside Danville’s train station, bikers whiz by on the rail trail. The 151-year-old building is a small, white building with green trimming. The bottom three feet are painted green. Built in 1871, for decades it connected riders from Saint Johnsbury to Swanton.
In recent years it’s gotten run down. The train stopped carrying passengers in the 80s. But instead of tearing it down, the station is set to get a refresh totaling over $45,000.
Patty Conly is on the Danville Planning Commission. She’s also executive director of the local historic society.
“It’s one of our few remaining historical buildings in town, and I think people really do feel a connectedness to it, and are in support of this project,” Conly said.
Michael Hogue works with Conly on the Danville Planning Commission. He’s also the chairman of the Danville Train Station Conservation Committee.
“They're very connected to the station,” Hogue said.
By “they” he means not just the town, but also Conly and himself.
“Patty grew up across the road from the train station,” Hogue said. “I think she used to put pennies on the rails …”
“I know my brothers did!” Conly said.
Townspeople remember the community around the station. The folks who used to work there, the trail crew, the engineers – they all built relationships with the people who used the station.
For example, Conly remembers how friendly Perley Pressey the station agent was in the 1940s and 50s. He would chat with folks while he tapped out telegrams to their friends and family.
“The station agent was the one back before the earlier years, before people had telephones in their home,” she said. “That was the primary form of communication from town to town.
And Conly says it wasn’t just the station agent who was a part of the community.
“If the train didn't need to stop at the station for any particular reason, the engineer had a wooden hoop that he would attach a message to, and he’d throw it out the window, and any the kids who happened to be there would go retrieve it for him, and their reward for that was a piece of candy from his candy jar,” she said.
She even had friends and family work on the train crew. Memories like this are common in Danville.
And those memories are what the planning committee is bringing to their restoration. They want to take that connection and those relationships and build a new culture as a recreational and economic hub.
Here’s Hogue again:
“Preservation doesn't mean we're going to put it back to the way it was 150 years ago, it means we're going to take the building as it is today, and make sure we protect the historic assets, but put it to a modern use.”
That means assessing structure, drainage, and the roof. But also building upon Danville’s budding outdoor recreation industry.
“The trail activity is growing dramatically, it used to be mostly during the snowmobile season,” Hogue said. “Now it is a year-round, seven-day-a-week activity, and it's a place to bring people to Danville or other towns in Vermont, and find people who want to live here and work here and be part of our economy.”
The restoration will include resting places for bikers and a history kiosk for pedestrians.
Conly and Hogue say they hope it will be an outdoor activity wellness hub for the town of Danville.
“It was the social hub of the town,” Conly said.
Hogue added: “And we hope to make it that again.”
Construction is set to begin next year.