More than 100 people gathered in downtown Hamilton early Tuesday morning to watch as crews moved the first half of the former CSX depot about 1,000 feet north to its new location at the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Maple Street — the original site of Hamilton’s first train depot.
The move marks the start of a new chapter for the historic, decommissioned train depot. The city has committed to spending no more than $2 million on the depot’s move and its necessary restoration — two things that officials hope will attract a restaurant, bar or other businesses to the location, which would spruce up Maple Street’s economy.
The rest of the depot, a long, one-story building, will be transported to the same spot early next year, but Hamilton Mayor Pat Moeller said there’s no immediate timetable of when the site will be ready to host tenants.
Brad Spurlock, of Historic Hamilton Inc., said the two buildings were built about 20 years apart. The two-story structure was built about 1888, and the one-story structure was built around 1858 — making it one of, if not the, oldest structures still standing in Hamilton today.
Spurlock said the historical ties the train depot has on the growth, development and lasting impact on Hamilton is “endless.”
“For decades, this was the gateway to Hamilton,” Spurlock said. “Anybody who was coming here to do business or migrating to the city came through this passenger depot.”
A crowd lined the sidewalk and spilled into the closed-off MLK Boulevard as the depot was transported via a remote-controlled chassis for about an hour and a half on a freezing Tuesday morning.
“It’s really great to see that kind of engagement from the public commemorating the historic move of this structure,” Spurlock said. “This is something that people will be talking about probably for decades to come.”
Moeller said adding the buildings to Maple Avenue and redeveloping them will allow the city to spread its attractions across a broader section of the city, hopefully taking away some of the traffic on High Street and spreading investment down through the corridor.
“It opens up the entire Maple Avenue corridor. It runs parallel to High Street, so it’s another east-to-west type of corridor, which is needed in our city,” Moeller said. “Let’s get some of the traffic off of High Street. This opens the door for that.”
This project has been in the works since 2020, when the city learned of CSX’s plans to demolish the train depot. In response, Mayor Pat Moeller wrote an open letter to the train conglomerate asking that it consider handing the building over to Hamilton.
“Give the train station to the city,” Moeller wrote in an open letter. “We will secure it. We will find groups to preserve it. Or, give it to an historic preservation group who will restore it.”
Preserving and restoring the old train depot, which in its day was a brief stop for U.S. presidents Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Dwight D. Eisenhower, has received support from prominent city organizations, including the Hamilton Community Foundation and the Citizens for Historic and Preservation Services.