By MJ Kneiser, WLHR Radio, Lavonia
A special open house sponsored by the Lavonia Women’s Club and the Lavonia Downtown Development Authority was held Saturday afternoon so the public could get a first-hand look at the work that had been done.
Work on the depot took about three months to complete at a cost to the city of Lavonia of about $248,000 and was completed in time to celebrate its 100th birthday.
Instead of the original depot interior being torn out over the years, it was simply covered up over years of multiple renovations. That meant the city’s goal of bringing the train station back to the way it originally looked meant just removing years of overlay.
Lavonia City Manager Gary Fesperman said despite cost over runs he is pleased with how the restoration turned out.
“This restoration came out way beyond anyone’s wildest dreams,” Fesperman said Saturday. “We knew we had a good fabric to start with, but when we started running into all of the damage that was covered up throughout the years, we had doubts we would be able to come out with what we have today and it’s been brought back to what it was 100 years ago.”
During the open house, members of the Lavonia Women’s Club dressed in period costume from 1912 and conducted tours of the depot.
Dotted around the walls of each room, were antique items and photographs of the station and town’s history that were donated by local citizens. An authentic period pot bellied stove is front and center as well in what was once the passenger waiting room.
Margaret Ayers is President of the Lavonia Historic Preservation Commission, another group that helped with the design and planning of the restoration.
Ayers said she is glad to see the old train station brought back to its former glory.
“I think it just looks so good and I’m so proud of it,” Ayers said. “I’m glad it’s back the way it used to look.”
Hosting the refreshments and music Saturday was Lavonia Downtown Development Authority Director Marie Morse.
Morse said she was pleased with the turnout.
“This is has been absolutely wonderful,” Morse said. “We’re excited that so many people are interested in historic preservation and came to see the depot as it was then and is now back again.”
Prior to the restoration work, the depot housed the Lavonia DDA offices.
Morse said that sometime soon after the first of the year, she will begin moving her office back to the train depot from her temporary location at Lavonia City Hall.