Peek-a-boo! History around the corner
The former I&GN Depot, now a museum, is always on view at the corner of Main and Milam and sometimes it will pop into view unexpectedly.
Travelers on US 79 get an unexpected glimpse of the 103- year old building through the "hole" in downtown Rockdale created by the 2002 fire that destroyed Arledge Antiques and Ballard Furniture Etc.
It pops up in the middle of FM 908 after anyone northbound into Rockdale at that venue rounds the sweeping curve at Roberts Street.
There are many places where the depot, with its distinctive red cupola, built by volunteer Gary Jackson, stands out.
Last month the depot was named the best historic restoration in Texas by the Texas Downtown Association, beating out restorations from much larger cities.
A blue-ribbon panel of architects, historians and writers praised the depot's "attention to architectural details and lighting" and termed it "a great anchor recaptured for the community."
The "new" depot—it replaced an original structure several blocks away—was occupied in the spring of 1906 and sold its first passenger ticket on May 1 of that year.
A Reporter article in the newspaper's May 3, 1906, edition describes the structure this way:
"This handsome edifice is veneered with red, pressed brick, trimmed in cement, and its handsome slate roof is capped with a dome of flaming red which can be seen from all parts of town."
Of course, Rockdale was much smaller 103 years ago but the restored depot, which looks identical to the description from 1906, can still be seen from much of downtown.
Passenger train service to Rockdale ceased in 1970 and the building was purchased by Adolph McVoy to store feed for his business which was located across Milam Street.
That purchase is credited with saving the structure for future generations.
As early as 1976, history-minded volunteers had approached McVoy about purchasing the depot but the sale did not take place until 1999, after the founding of the Rockdale Historical Society.
The restoration process took almost a decade. Key feature in the restoration was Jackson's reconstruction of a cupola.
The depot is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.