Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Preservation Success Story - Pulaski Depot

Photo from The Southwest Times
Back in November 2008, we were all heart-broken to hear of the fire in the historic Pulaski, Virginia train station.  A beautiful stone passenger depot built in the late 1800s, it housed the town's museum and Chamber of Commerce.  The fire was electrical, starting in the ceiling of the museum and probably smoldering for quite some time before breaking into flames during the night.  There wasn't a fire alarm system in the building, but a passerby saw smoke pouring from the roof and called 911.  The volunteer fire department went far above and beyond the call of duty pulling museum items out of the structurally unsound building in the heat of the moment, saving far more than one would have imagined given the intensity of the fire.  

Photo from WSLS

Despite the depot's stone walls and slate roof, the building did not fair well in the fire.  The roof collapsed, taking parts of the upper walls with it and interior features were incinerated.  Even given the best efforts of the fire fighters, the fire was too far advanced when they were called to have had a better outcome.  With current budget constraints and the state of the depot, many municipalities would have decided to give up and demolish the building.  The Town of Pulaski is resilient.  They've been through town fires, the closing of their furniture factories, flooding, two fires in their historic courthouse, and, since the depot fire, a tornado.  The Town decided to use the insurance money they received from the fire to reconstruct the train depot and restore many of the depot's original features.

Last Saturday, June 11, 2011 was the grand reopening of Pulaski's depot.  It was exhilarating to see how many people gathered for the celebration.  The exterior of the building has been restored to its appearance prior to the fire.  The slate roof with its distinctive cupolas has been reconstructed along with the upper sections of the stone exterior walls that were lost to the fire.  The interior has been returned to its original appearance with fireplaces at the ends of the main rooms and beadboard covering the walls. Some changes were made to reflect the new functionality of the building.  A new museum will be built across the street, so the depot will become a meeting space for local groups and those looking for retreat space.  New restrooms and a ramp were added.  Probably the most important new feature added to the building?  An alarm and fire suppression system.

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