Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Old depot may yet escape bulldozer

Photo courtesy Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission

The historic passenger depot off Freedom Drive, the Thrift P&N station, may yet be saved from demolition. A complicated property deal is in the works, involving the depot's owner, CSX railway, as well as the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission and the N.C. Department of Transportation.

As I first wrote in November (City may seek landmark demolition) the station dates to the Piedmont and Northern electric suburban rail system developed by power company and tobacco magnate James B. Duke and power company executive William States Lee (who ran the forerunner of Duke Energy). The railway opened in 1912; passenger service ended in 1951. The station, designed by prominent Charlotte architect C.C. Hook (he designed the Duke Mansion and old City Hall), is the last P&N passenger station in Mecklenburg County.

It's a designated landmark, but in North Carolina designated landmarks can be demolished if the owner desires. The old depot was caught up in the city's new, well-intentioned nonresidential building code, adopted last April and aimed at cleaning up dilapidated, blighted buildings. CSX hadn't kept the old depot in good repair, and after an inspection the city ordered repairs or demolition. CSX applied for a permit to demolish. The city-county landmarks commission has power to delay demolitions for a year and did so.

Walter Abernethy, the city's code enforcement manager, told the City Council on Monday that an agreement had been reached to save the depot. He might have been a wee bit prematurely optimistic. Dan Morrill, the consulting director for the landmarks commission, says that CSX has
has agreed to withdraw its demolition application for a year to let NCDOT and the landmarks commission try to put together this scenario:

• NCDOT acquires property nearby, across track. If it succeeds, NCDOT allows the depot to be moved onto that new site.
• CSX would then donate the station to the HLC. The HLC would move the station to the new site and restore it for an interim adaptive reuse. CSX might donate some money for the move and restoration, Morrill said.
• If and when NCDOT acquires the former P&N track for passenger use (it owns about 15 miles of the railway, some near uptown Charlotte but mostly in Gaston County where re-opening freight operations) then NCDOT would buy the station from the HLC for use as a passenger. But currently NCDOT has no plans for passenger rail along the line.

Obviously, the plan hinges on NCDOT acquiring land. But if all the pieces fall into place – still a big if – in a weird sort of irony the demolition threat may well end up having saved the old depot from what was starting to look like "demolition by neglect."


Stephen said...

I'm usually first in line to preserve old buildings here in the great state of Mecklenburg, but I don't really see the point here. It seems like its ready to demo itself, and its not like it can be described as architecturally significant. I applaud someone sticking up for it but I'm pretty shocked CSX is even pretending to play along. What purpose will it serve when it is moved and "preserved"? Will it get a little roadside plaque? I'd be thrilled if some sort of passenger rail is reintroduced to the area but how likely is that to happen before the building collapses on itself?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Mary, you obsess over the most inconsequential things.

Sometimes I wonder if Charlotte is your intended audience, or if you are assembling a portfolio for an audition elsewhere.

This little ol' depot is in a forgotten corner of Charlotte. No one cares. We're not trying to save the Duke Mansion or old City Hall.

When those landmarks, or the 1955 Charlotte Coliseum, or even the trolley wait stations at Queens and Queens & Queens are threatened, call me. :)

Anonymous said...

Maybe a visit to Belmont and Mt. Holly and their resurrected P&N stations would convince you. Just another example of area restoration in Gaston County. But the N. Tryon St. Amtrak building makes one wish for the beauty of Salisbury and Hamlet's stations.

Mike said...

Yes, some of us do care! My ancestors used this station to take the P&N "to town". The home place was near the tracks, in Paw Creek.

My dad used to ride the train across town, to Hickory Grove, to "court" my mom, in the mid-30's.

This one of those times I wish I had money.

Anonymous said...

Well heaven knows, if someone's parents courted in a building it must indeed be saved for posterity. All of them. Save every building in which two people met, or had their first dance or . . .well, anything. Just save them all if they ever mattered to someone.