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ULLIN - ILLINOIS CENTRAL RAILROAD DEPOT

 

Description

The current Illinois Central Railroad (ICRR) Depot, located in the center of Ullin, Illinois, was built in 1897. This is the third ICRR Depot built in Ullin. The first depot appears (sketched) on a Pulaski County platt of Ullin recorded on August 28, 1857. The 1855 ICRR Financial Statement indicates both passenger and freight sales in Ullin beginning in February of that year. This indicates those structures were there as early as 1855. The old depot depicted in the Pulaski County records of 1857 reveals it was located about seventy-five feet south of the current depot (built in 1897). There are no photographs of this depot. A record found with the Illinois Central Historical Society in Paxton, Illinois dated November 5, 1915 makes reference to another Illinois Central Passenger and Freight Depot in Ullin built about 1863. It appears this depot replaced the one, which was present in 1855. The document states the 1863 depot measured 24í X 100í feet. The location is not noted, but it is assumed it was in the same location. The current depot is 24í X 60" feet.

Another passenger depot belonging to the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad was built about 1900, one mile east of the ICRR Depot. Transportation was provided between the two depots allowing passengers to make connecting trains to other destinations. The C&EI Depot was razed in the 1940ís. Only one photo has been found of this depot. Todayís ICRR Depot is located between Central Avenue (formerly East Oak Street) and the Illinois Central Railroad main line, which parallel each other north and south. Ullin Avenue intersects Central Avenue directly in front of the depot on the east side. The depot is located one block west of U. S. Highway 51 (originally Illinois Route 2). The east side of the depot faces the business district of Ullin. Directly across Central Avenue, about 100í feet east of the depot, is the Ullin Civic Club Building (organization formed in 1956). This old building has housed many Ullin businesses through the years and may be as old or older that the depot itself. This building housed a government funded senior citizen program known as "Smiles II" from February 1974 until November 1998. This organization prepared meals for senior citizens. The building is now used on weekends as a church and public meeting place. The Ullin Post office, a red brick structure, built in 1962 (which replaced one built in 1911), is located about 300' feet southeast of the depot. Reaganís Supermarket, a family owned business founded by C. V. Reagan in 1932, is located about one half block east of the depot. It is a small but very busy community grocery store. On the east side of Reaganís is Cache River Chevrolet, which in 1997 purchased Dickersonís Chevrolet (established in 1956). The Cache River Chevrolet is the largest auto dealer in extreme Southern Illinois.

Many old Ullin businesses have come and gone through the 142 years of Ullinís existence. Most were located within a very short walk of the depot since they depended upon each other for survival. Many archived photographs taken in the early 1900ís in and around the old businesses now defunct reflect the depot in the background. The old Newell Hotel was at one time located about 200í feet to the southeast of the depot. There were other hotels just a short distance away (Ullin had five hotels at one time). There are no hotels in downtown Ullin today, however a Best Western Inn is located in the new property annexed by the village near Interstate 57 on the Shawnee College Road. Two Ullin Banks have come and gone during the depotís 102 years. The most recent, a beautiful two story brick building built in about 1916, was located only about 150í feet southeast of the depot. It fell victim to the Great Depression and never recovered. It housed a few other businesses through the years until it was razed in 1976. Only a piece of foundation that once supported one of the limestone pillars is visible today. Currently, the First State Bank of Dongola operates a satellite bank near the Ullin Post Office (a further explanation of the businesses located near the depot between 1897 to 1947 is found in section 8 of this application).

The depotís size and design was similar to many other wooden passenger and freight stations built during the end of the 1800ís by the Illinois Central Railroad. Generally, these were second and third generation depots, replacing some of the depot and freight structures built when the railroad was created in 1850. Most of these "new" stations were rectangular in design with a square bay window on the railroad side. They were end gabled with wooden balloon framing. The Ullin Depot was built with thick native hardwood framing timbers contributing to the reason it has withstood the test of time. Since the Ullin area was blessed with so much timber, it is assumed most of the lumber used in the framing of the depot came from near by forests since the Bell Saw Mill was in operation in Ullin during this time. The sills and girders that form the foundation of the depot are 10" X 10" creosote timbers. Wooden posts supported the foundation. The floor joists are 3" X 10" placed on 18" inch centers. The wall studs are a full 2" X 4" placed on 24" inch centers. All of the trusses are a full 2" X 6" placed on 24" centers. The trusses are constructed with an inverted "V" support with a vertical support through the middle of the "V". The roofline is amazingly straight after all these years. The roof decking is plank lumber measuring 1" inch thick by various widths and is in excellent condition.

The Ullin Depot is partitioned in a manner that allowed a large comfortable passenger/waiting area on the south side, a station master and ticket office in the middle and then a large freight area on the north side. Two large wooden sliding doors on both the rail and the roadside of the depot allowed easy loading and unloading of freight. Most of the freight was sent and received by local farmers. These included fruits, vegetables, live produce and farming hardware ordered mostly from Chicago.

The original cabinets still line the walls of the ticket office

The only changes in the depot since it was constructed are mostly cosmetic. Actually, it is amazingly preserved from the original design. Plumbing was never added inside the depot and only basic electrical needs were satisfied. Examination of old photographs dated to about 1905 reveals the siding has been changed. Old photographs reveal a mix of both vertical and horizontal siding. This mix highlighted the depotís windows and doors. It also highlighted the gable ends of the depot. The wood siding was replaced in about 1947, according to Charles F. Werner of the Illinois Central Railroad Historical Society. The new design included horizontal wood siding from the foundation up to the bottom of the windows. From the bottom of the window to the eaves, the exterior was covered with a product at that time called cementatious board. It was sold under the name Transite. This particular product was used on numerous buildings during these years and is still manufactured today. The new color scheme was gray at the bottom and gray wood framing around the windows, doors and wooden soffits and eaves. The color of the Transite siding was an off white color which created a two-tone appearance that the depot still sports today. A report filed on November 5, 1915 reflects the gable roof as slate (a slate roofing voucher was filed by Knisely & Yeldham on January 11, 1898), but it has been three-tab asphalt shingle for as long as anyone remembers. Although now weathered, this is the way it has remained.

Also built on the site in 1897 was a coalhouse measuring 10í X 12í feet and a two door wooden "double water closet (outside toilet) measuring 5í X 9í feet. Both were located on the north side of the depot. Two wooden mail cranes were also constructed on the site in 1897. All four of these structures are now gone.

The Ullin ICRR Depot was a very active freight and passenger depot until about 1970. Many technological factors brought about a transition in the rail freight and passenger industry. With exception of the larger cities, almost all of the smaller depots were abandoned. Ullin was no exception to this trend.

The old Ullin ICRR Depot building could be compared to a cat with nine lives. It has just missed being destroyed or damaged many times since 1897. This does not include the tornadoes and bad storms that have struck the area during the 102 years of its existence. In 1972, the ICRR was ready to abandon the building and probably would have destroyed it had it not been sold to another Ullin business and moved west across the railroad tracks. The company who moved the structure was Kennedy, Kennedy, & Kennedy Building Movers from Metropolis, Illinois. Old home movies recovered during this research reveal the care and precision utilized to move the extremely heavy building. It was moved about 300í feet northwest of the original location across several railroad tracks. The depot was placed at the north end of the Ullin Phoenix Flour Mill. The only change made by the new owner was to replace the roof. The building was then used for storage of dry good type items.

On Labor Day 1979, the Phoenix Mill was destroyed by fire. The depot received only slight fire damage to the south eave. Archived photographs taken during that tremendous fire reveal the south eave a blaze. The fire was extinguished immediately and the depot was saved. The mill burned to the ground. The business reopened at a different location but abandoned the depot building due to the expense in moving it to the new location. The depot sat dormant for the next 18 years. During these years, vandals broke out all the glass windowpanes. Interior areas exposed to the environment because of the broken windows continued to weather through those years. The new roof put on the building by the new owner preserved most other areas and protected it from moisture.

In August 1997, the Illinois Central Railroad notified the Village of Ullin of its intent to destroy and remove the abandoned building. A group of Ullin Civic Club Members teamed with Ullin Village Board Members joined together to save the depot which was within only a few days of demolition. William Echols a retired businessman and former Ullin resident loaned the group $17,000 dollars to move the depot. Without the loan, the depot would have been destroyed. The group sought out a location for the depot and in the spirit of cooperation, the ICRR sold the Village of Ullin the land where the depot had originally set (as well as the parking lot and land to the north and south).

On December 2, 1997 the same moving company (that moved it the first time), Kennedy, Kennedy & Kennedy Building Movers moved the depot back to its original location. Several older Ullin Citizens and members from the local news media witnessed the move. The move went as smooth and precise as it did the first move 25 years earlier. Prior to the move, concrete was poured well below the frost line in multiple predetermined locations to support the massive weight of the depot. Concrete block piers were built under the depot and a few days later the structure was carefully lowered onto them. Even the brick chimney survived the move without any damage.

The east elevation is what is normally thought of as the front of the depot. One double- hung window is located on the south end of the passenger/waiting room. The window, like all the rest is missing the glass and most of the millwork. Prior to being attacked by vandals, the windows possessed twelve individual glass panes. Most of the window frames are still in place. Some decorative designs on the frame tails are still visible. Located near the middle of the east elevation is the door into the station master/ticket office. The door, a five panel wooden door, appears in good shape and may be restored. A wooden exterior screen door has been saved as well. Eight-pane double-hung windows are found on each side of the door. These two windows allow a view of Ullinís business district. A four-pane transom is located above the door. Near the north corner of the east elevation is a large single, four-panel wooden sliding freight door. The same freight door is located on the west side of the depot in the same place. Both doors are in great shape and may be restored. A six-pane transom once allowed in day light above the each of the sliding doors. Some of the millwork around these windows still exists. The sliding doors allowed easy access to freight inside the freight area of the depot. The metal slide mechanisms are rusty, but they still allow the doors to move.

The south elevation of the depot has two of the large double-hung wooden windows inside the passenger/waiting room. A few pieces of the wooden siding are missing and need replaced. The name "Ullin" still bears witness to all passing trains. The south gable is still blackened because of the fire on Labor Day 1979.

The north elevation is a duplication of the south elevation, except no windows are located here.

The west elevation is the business side of the depot. This is the railroad side of the depot. The door into the passenger/waiting room is found near the south corner. This was the public entrance. Entry is gained via a five-panel wooden door, which matches the door on the east side of the depot. This door also appears salvageable. A window into the passenger room is located just north of the door. Located at almost center of the building is the square sided bay window, which protrudes about three and one half feet toward the railroad from inside the stationmasterís office. This of course allowed viewing in three directions from inside the office where the telegraph was located. A pair of twelve-pane glass windows are in the middle of the west wall. Smaller eight-pane windows were located on both the north and south walls of the bay window. A gabled roof covered the square bay window. Toward the north side of the west elevation is the duplicate of the sliding door found on the east elevation.

The brick chimney rises above the middle of the roof from the north side of the passenger/waiting room. It is visible from all sides is in good condition and will require minimal tuck-pointing. The roof decking is in good shape, but the shingles need replacing.

The interior of the passenger/waiting room on the south side of the depot is in remarkable condition. An ICRR document dated November 5, 1915 indicates a M. Dencer who was paid by a voucher dated January 28, 1898 did the millwork on the depot. The document does not indicate what Dencer was paid for his services. The floor is currently yellow pine 1" X 6" inch tongue and groove flooring although in 1915 all floors were noted as being maple. The maple wood floor may be under the pine floor. The pine flooring is in great condition but will need some sanding. It does not appear any of the flooring will need replaced. The walls and ceiling are still original. The walls are all vertical tongue and groove 1" X 3 car siding (1/4" bead on 1 1/2" center). The wood appears in good condition. The years have caused the paint to peal and will require only minimal scraping prior to painting. A picture molding is around the perimeter of the room at 12í feet high. A crown molding covers the seam of the wall where it meets the 14í foot high ceiling. The ceiling is also car siding. It too is in good condition. The brick chimney is wood covered. The clean out and stovepipe hole are still exposed. The ticket office window is still in place and the molding around it bearing the word "TICKETS" was removed prior to the last move and stored until it can be replaced.

A wooden six-panel door located on the north side of the room in the west corner separates the passenger/waiting room from the station master and ticket office. The type of construction found in the passenger/waiting room can also be found in the station master and ticket office. The wood is in relatively good condition. Several original cabinets with raised panel doors and tariff cases line the north walls and most are still in good condition. Most of the florescent lighting fixtures have fallen down and will need replaced. The structure will need rewired replacing the surface conduit.

The door that separates the freight area to the north from the station master and ticket office is missing. The freight room is a large spacious area. The ceiling is open rafter. Wood boards have been placed horizontally up to nine feet high around the perimeter of the room. Some of the boards measure 15 1/2" inches wide. Some graffiti has been found on the walls of the freight room. One name, "Monk Hartwill June 2, 1916" is visible on the east wall. The initials "R. W. G. 1910" are found on the south wall. One stationmaster from years ago was Alonzo Dale. One graffiti states "long legs Dale" in reference to his thin tall stature. The sliding doors are found along both the east and west walls. A small coal bin measuring 6í X 9í feet is located on the southwest corner of the freight room. Currently, the freight room contains a few items left behind when the grain mill used it. The flooring is made of 2" inch thick wood. The floor needs only a small repair near the west freight door.

Unlike many other old depots that have been accepted to the National Register, and restored, the Ullin Illinois Central Railroad Depot has never been retrofitted for any other purpose. The current condition of the Ullin depot is not significantly any different than the day the last train stopped there. No walls have been moved, and no new doors have been installed. It is a rare opportunity to restore a structure that has been suspended in time and effected only by environment.

 
View of the Above Photos with caption

 

 

 

 


 

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