The Henderson Union Station is a formerly abandoned Louisville & Nashville Railroad (L&N) passenger station in Henderson, Kentucky. It is currently being restored.


History

The L&N depot was constructed by the local firm Bailey & Koerner in 1901 and 1902, 4 6 opening to the public on July 1, 1902 at a cost of $25,000. 6 It replaced the circa 1875 7 L&N station at Fourth and Adams streets, which became the residence of the L&N yard foreman. 6 The two-story, wood-framed passenger depot for the L&N cost $2,000 to erect and contained five offices and two waiting rooms. 7

The Union Station also replaced separate stations for the Illinois Central and the Henderson Route. 6

By 1922, the station handled 24 passenger trains daily. 6 The advent of the automobile and the construction of the interstate highway system and parkways in Kentucky decimated passenger trains in the state. The station was closed by the L&N in 1971. 2

Post-Closure

The abandoned Union Station was condemned in 1976 5 and scheduled for demolition in 1978 but vocal community opposition spared it from the wrecking ball. 4

The building was sold to Evansville businessman John Dannheiser who completed some restoration work. 5 He owned the building for several years before donating it to the Henderson County Historical and Genealogical Society in 1982. The historical group planned to restore the former station into a city and county museum, genealogy library, banquet hall, flower shop and cafe. 1

An open house was hosted by the historical society on October 23, 1990 to showcase the ongoing restoration of the depot. 5 Only about a third of the work needed had been completed, which included restoring the cupola, reroofing the front of the station, rewiring and replastering the VIP waiting room, and repairing that room’s doors and windows.

Over the years, the organization repaired the roof and basement but trying to stabilize the station proved to be too large of a project. 2 An architect estimated it would take an additional $225,000 to shell out the building for future use.

In 1999, a large drainage detention pond was built along Clark Street which caused the foundation of the railroad station to shift due to a decrease in the groundwater table. 4 The basin, an acre in size and 25 feet deep, was constructed by the Henderson Water and Sewer Company to temporarily hold groundwater flowing from the Julia-Center Street area. Lowering the water level caused the building’s foundation to place more stress on the soil layers below the new water level, which was made up of highly compressible soils.

It was estimated that repairing the foundation would cost at least $750,000 and that further restoration of the building would cost an estimated $971,000. 4

The city acquired the building from the historical society, mainly because the city was eligible for grant funding that was not obtainable by other groups. 3

The city was able to obtain a $300,000 grant for exterior work on the former depot. 4 The city then applied for another grant of $312,000, for which there would need to be a local match of $138,000, for additional stabilization work. The state, which administered the federal grant, determined that the stabilization of the foundation would not be eligible for the funding. 3

It was estimated to cost $1.3 million to $1.7 million to restore the depot, while moving the depot to downtown would cost $1.7 million to $2 million. 3

Restoration

The city requested bids to either demolish or restore Union Station in 2015. 7 Two companies placed bids to tear down the building while Architectural Renovators of Evansville submitted the only bid to restore the depot.

In December, the city awarded the contract to Architectural Renovators, agreeing to pay $80,000 towards restoring the building: 7

  • $13,0000 at the start of the project.
  • $37,000 after exterior masonry and interior stabilization was finished.
  • $25,000 after the roof and portico was restored.
  • $5,000 for an ornamental iron fence to separate the building from the railroad.

Additionally, the city deeded the building over to Architectural Renovators. 7 The company was required to begin construction within six months and to complete exterior restoration within 36 months or be forced to give up the deed to Union Station.

Work to restore the building began almost immediately although the restoration company found the inside in worse condition than expected. 7 A new roof was finished by the winter of 2016 and work on the exterior of the building was nearly finished by February 2017.

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