Depot named state's best restoration
Dr. Lucile Estell, representing the Rockdale Historical Society, was set to give a Powerpoint presentation about Rockdale's depot before the Texas Downtown Association awards gala in Tyler last week.
Her computer quit. That didn't phase Dr. Estell, a retired school administrator and veteran of hundreds of presentations. "I can still talk," she announced.
And she talked well enough that Rockdale's historic International & Great Northern (I&GN) was named the best restored building in Texas for 2009.
The depot, a 10-year project of the historical society, beat out two other finalists for the cherished award.
They were the Whitmire & Whitmire Insurance Building in Wichita Falls and the Hepker Building in Bastrop.
Competition was intense. "When we got to the gathering and saw photos of that insurance building we were just blown away," historical society member Joy Graham said.
But a blue-ribbon jury panel composed of architects, historians and writers selected Rockdale's depot as the overall winner.
Judges termed the depot project "a great anchor recaptured for the community" and praised "attention to architectural details and lighting."
Construction began on the I&GN Depot in 1905 and it was completed, and dedicated, the next year.
In 1925 the I&GN was leased by Missouri Pacific Railroad and operated as a division of MP until 1955, when it officially merged with Missouri-Pacific.
When a new roof was added in 1936 the depot lost its landmark cupola, a cost-saving measure.
By 1957 the only job remaining at the Rockdale depot was railroad agent. That post was eliminated and the final passenger train left Rockdale July 15, 1970.
The depot officially closed that year and was used as a feed storage location for the next 28 years. It also survived a fire.
The historical society purchased the depot on Dec. 1, 1999, and began a decade long project which restored the building to its Victorian Era glory, including restoration of the cupola.