Proving that saving the historic Southern Pacific Depot on Green Avenue and Eleventh Street is certainly worth the effort, 70 percent of the members of the Stark High School Class of 1959 purchased engraved bricks for the paths around the depot amounting to nearly $7,000 toward the fundraising goal.

Not only were individual bricks purchased, but many of the class members bought bricks in honor of all deceased classmates and many favorite teachers and coaches.  “We hope that the people of Orange who feel their contributions to the project would be too small should be encouraged to just buy a brick,” said Rose Simar, class secretary and member of the board of the Friends of the Orange Depot.  “As you can see, they all add up to generous support for our project.”

The best way to donate a brick is to go to the organization’s website, www.orangetxdepot.org, click on Bricks, print a form, fill it out and mail it in with a check, or charge to a credit card. As of April 30, $6,850 total bricks have been donated this year alone.

Project Fundraising and Museum Update

The Friends of the Orange Depot announced a summer campaign to raise $45,000 to enable the organization to begin the actual construction to restore the Depot.  Members of the board are actively calling on business leaders in Orange County to help. As of today, the goal is only $27,000, since $18,000 additional donations have been collected this year.  

The architectural designs for the Depot museum/gift shop/conference center have been completed by Rob Clark and Nina Rivers, architects from AAI, Inc., in Beaumont.  Clark’s expertise in restoring historic buildings makes his input important for acquiring official legal documentation for state and national historic markers.  The designs include spaces for the following industries that propelled the success of Orange in the 20th century: railroad transportation, timber, shipbuilding, and petrochemicals.  “It is exciting to be at this new stage of the project,” said Carrie Woliver, board president.  “We are now asking the community if they would consider donating or loaning artifacts, photos, ship replicas, logos, train schedules, anything that will help us tell the stories of old Orange. On the website, there is even a place to write an interesting memory of the train station.”

The organization will be joining forces with Heritage House, the museum which has a similar mission to save the history of Orange.  “We will make plans not only to share ideas and artifacts, but also we will work together on special events to bring families to the historic quarter,” Woliver said.

Total fundraising goal for restoring the Depot is still $650,000, and more than half has been raised.  Donations from county residents are still needed, but also there is an active campaign to solicit grants from foundations across Texas.  “There are naming opportunities available, ranging in price from $25,000 to name one of the three exhibit areas to $100,000 to name one of the two areas of the museum,” revealed Woliver.  “We are encouraging business leaders to underwrite all or a portion of the three special exhibit areas. And since all we need to begin construction is now $27,000, one naming opportunity will allow this to happen. There is already interest in underwriting the shipbuilding exhibit, an industry that contributed greatly to the WWII war effort.  “We plan to honor the pioneers from all the industries in the museum,” said Woliver.

Why another museum?  Woliver reports that visits to museums are much more memorable than other activities, such as shopping or going to the movies.  Many times, families will visit together, all experience the exhibits in their own way, and will share afterwards with other family members, making it a pleasant, memorable activity.  Visiting the Depot Museum will offer opportunities for learning for the more than 15,000 school children in Orange County public schools alone, which will instill a source of pride in their home town.  Being situated at the apex of the historic district, the museum will attract all the visitors who come to Orange to view the First Presbyterian Church, Stark venues, the river, and Lamar State College.

The Friends of the Orange Depot board meeting will be held on Thursday, May 21, 5:30 p.m. at the Grace Lutheran Church on Eddleman Rd. in Orange.  New and old volunteers are encouraged to attend.  At 4:30 pm, the architectural drawings will be on display for all to view, and drinks and appetizers will be available.