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Depot to open again in High Point

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By Sue Schultz Staff Writer

News & Record

HIGH POINT -- Lib Conner still remembers the day in the early 1920s when she sat pressed up against a window in High Point's downtown train depot waiting for a train to take her family to Richmond for Christmas.

"I was 4 or 5 years old," said Conner, a High Point resident. "I was so annoyed because the train was late."

Conner and about 100 other guests stood in the newly renovated waiting room of the High Point depot Friday morning to celebrate a 10-year, $6.8 million restoration effort.

Built in 1907 by Southern Railway, the depot served more than 20 passenger trains in the 1920s transporting people from New York to New Orleans. In 1975, after train travel started to decline, the building closed to the public and travelers but six trains a day continued to stop in High Point. The building was transformed briefly into a restaurant and a night club, but has sat vacant since 1990.

In 1993, the High Point Historic Preservation Society and the city worked together to get state funding to renovate the deteriorating landmark. The city spent about $680,000 on the renovations, with state and federal grants paying the rest.

Construction work started in 2001. About eight months ago, trains ceased stopping at the station, sending local passengers to Greensboro for travel. The depot is expected to open to the public and trains Dec. 9.

"It's newer and shinier, but I can still remember it," Conner said, giving the waiting room a once-over.

State Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett said High Point's depot restoration was one of nine similar restorations this year throughout the state. He said train depots in Greensboro and Burlington also were recently restored.

"Train ridership is making a comeback and will be increasing dramatically," said Tippett, standing inside the doorway of the depot as a passenger train roared through.

The depot will be a part of High Point's downtown transportation center. The train depot off High Avenue will connect to the city's bus depot.

In addition to the transportation benefits, community leaders said the depot will also be a community gathering place. A new community room will be available to rent out for social functions.

"A project of this magnitude acts as a snowball," said Aaron Clinard, chairman of the city's Downtown Improvement Committee. "If we can do a project this big, then we can definitely do other things."

Clinard said he plans to use the restoration to spark support for a proposal to cover the unused portion of railroad tracks from Lindsay Street to Elm Street and Main Street to Centennial Street. Covering the tracks would provide space for more residential or commercial developments. More apartments and businesses could draw more residents and visitors downtown.

Now that the restoration is complete, Earl Harrison said he'll be spending more time downtown. A station attendant for the state Transportation Department at the depot, Harrison hasn't worked at the station for the past eight months.

"This will bring business back to High Point," Harrison said. "I say to folks, 'come on over, we got a new place here and we're ready for you.' "

Conner says she will be back, waiting patiently at the window in the waiting room of the depot Christmas Eve. Only instead of leaving, she will be welcoming a new generation of travelers -- her grandchildren -- to High Point.

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The more trains the better IMO. Too bad there wasn't a picture of the Depot.

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