Past uncovered as work continues on Orange Depot Museum
Jack Elliott of JackBuilt, at left, the contractor for the renovation and repair of the Orange Depot Museum, speaks with Juanita Timberlake about some of the features uncovered during the recent cleaning and abatement of the interior of the historic Orange Train Depot. Timberlake worked at the depot from 1946 to 1975.
By Tommy Mann Jr. – For The Record
Work is progressing slowly and steadily toward completion of the much anticipated Orange Depot Museum, and some interesting discoveries have been made on features not seen in years about the historic location.
The Friends of the Orange Depot, the official non-profit organization responsible for the effort to turn the historic train depot into a tourist attraction, was able to tour the facility this past Friday morning to see what has been uncovered during the abatement process of the depot.
Work began this spring on preparing the facility for its renovation, which included having an abatement company removing lead paint and other items from the building.
Jack Elliott of Jackbuilt, which is the general contractor of the project and is located in Orange, provided some insight on some of the features which have been discovered about the Orange Train Depot since the abatement project began.
“We’ve found doorways which have been covered up over the years, and we’ve found window positions which have been changed over time too,” Elliott said of the recent work on the project. “It’s been very interesting uncovering the past of this building.”
The purpose of the project is to convert the train depot, which was built in 1910, into a museum and educational attraction. The facility will pay tribute to railroad transportation, timber, shipbuilding and the petrochemical industries of the city which have been so vital to its growth and history.
Elliott said many other interesting bits of history have been uncovered in the process, including details about the craftmanship of certain features, color schemes and features which were added years after the depot originally opened.
“We discovered the ticket window was added much later, probably 10 to 15 years, to a part of the building, which was originally made as an office area,” Elliott continued. “We’ve also been finding colors of green and black from paint on certain features.”
He also stated there were large double-doors and large double-windows incorporated as part of the design of the depot, which was confirmed by local resident Juanita Timberlake who worked at the depot from 1946 to 1975.
Timberlake said the large double-windows were both positioned in the middle of the depot on each side of the building for a reason.
“They allowed air to flow through the building because it didn’t have air-conditioning at that time,” Timberlake said to everyone during the walk-through tour on Friday morning.
Elliott stated the work on the outside of the building has revealed the color of original brick, which has apparently been painted more than once and covered with other materials.
Elliott said plans are to match the original red brick of the exterior as the project moves forward, and, on the interior, to leave the brick exposed after it has been thoroughly cleaned.
He also commented on the quality work of the remnants of the wood framed windows and come to the conclusion the work was hand-chisled because of the amount of hand detail.
“The roof will need quite a bit of work to be done because of the amout of damage to the decking,” Elliott added when asked about what shape it was in currently.
Timberlake, who had the experience of working inside the Orange Train Depot for so many years, said many of the changes made to the depot through the years were a result of segregation issues. When the depot was desegregated, it also happens to be one of the things she remembered easily.
“When it happened, it went pretty smooth,” Timberlake said to those gathered. “There really weren’t any issues and everyone respected each other.”
In late-April, a special groundbreaking ceremony was held on the property to commemorate the milestone of reaching $450,000 in its fundraising efforts and to signal the next phase of the project, which was to begin work on the interior, exterior and painting.
The Friends of the Orange Depot’s original fundraising goal is $650,000 and the organization currently has raised more than $500,000 in its efforts.
The walk-through tour provided a lot of insight to the current state of the project for many members of the Friends of the Orange Depot organization, including its president, Carrie Woliver.
“This has all been a big surprise,” Woliver said when asked about the revelations of the walk-through tour. “It was such a big mess in there for so long before we started this project, but saving something like (the depot) is so important because it is such a big part of the history of Orange.”
According to the official website, the Orange Depot Museum will include exhibits about the industries of Orange and the significance of each to the area, replicas of ships and boats built in Orange, model trains and other interactive exhibits to educate local school students and guests.
The work on the facility is still in its early stages, but, once the renovation is complete, the museum will also include a gift shop and rooms for meetings and receptions, and docents will be provide valuable insight to the public about the depot during tours.