Historical Society continues mission to restore historic train depot

ROUSES POINT The Rouses Point-Champlain Historical Society is getting on track in its mission to restore the former D&H Railroad Station, but needs the communitys help. Historical Society members spread that message as they opened the doors of the Pratt Street depot to the public last Saturday. The open house gave many the chance to see first-hand the amount of work restoration of the 1889 building will involve. Weve been talking about doing this, because its good exposure, Historical Society president Geri Favreau said of the open house. For people whove been in the village for a while, this gives them the chance to come in and reminisce and look over what needs to be done. The Rouses Point-Champlain Historical Society has been working to restore the former D&H Railroad Station since 2002, when the Village of Rouses Point purchased the building from Canadian Pacific Railway. The $5,000 the village paid for the building would become a drop in the bucket toward the overall cost of its full restoration. The village has other issues than having to restore an old train station, so we took it on, said Ms. Favreau. Weve estimated it will cost $100,000 ... Its going to take a lot of work. In addition to a complete replacement of the buildings roof, Richard Baker, members of the Historical Society board of directors, said several improvements need to be addressed, including drainage and chimney work. Weve got to do all of this before we even put the first shingle on, said Mr. Baker. Its a massive amount of work, but its going to beautiful when were done. I, not being a construction person, just thought wed just replace the roof. Its a little more than that, added Ms. Favreau. Other improvements needed inside, said Mr. Baker, include the restoration of woodwork throughout the building, much of which is white oak. Walls, window frames, ceilings and floorboards have been covered in lead-based paint for several years, with a need for them to be stripped and restored to like new condition, he added. Old window frames that are salvageable will likely be reused, being refitted to accommodate thermal pane windows. That measure, in addition to insulating the currently uninsulated building, will help reduce energy costs down the road, said Mr. Baker. Because of the buildings listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005, stringent restrictions are put on what work can and cannot be performed to the building, he added. However, cosmetic improvements such as the restoration of wainscoting are among planned improvements that are allowed. In January, Altona Correctional Facility inmates spent three weeks laboring at the old train station, removing drop ceilings, panel and flooring. Historical Society members have also since cleaned and removed debris from the station, all as the next step in the buildings renovation. Weve cleaned inside. Weve washed windows. Weve done a lot, said Ms. Favreau. And it was like this building said to us, Finally, somebody cares about me. Though a native of Churubusco, Ms. Favreau has lived in Rouses Point the past seven years. In that time, she has seen how important the railroads history is to the village. Proof of that can be found in how people have taken notice of the new life the building has taken on, she said. Im just amazed at the number of people that show an interest, she said. But, everywhere you turn, someone either worked for the railroad or their father or uncle worked for the railroad. Its a big railroad village. The interest they have in this building and others in this village is amazing. Though a lofty goal, the challenge to raise $100,000 is not insurmountable, said Ms. Favreau. Already, the Historical Society has raised approximately $25,000 on its own over the past five years. In April, Sen. Elizabeth OC. Little secured a $10,000 member item for the project, which will also help the organization in its effort. One of the organizations largest fundraisers for the past three years, said Ms. Favreau, has been Fete de Danse, an event that brings together regional, national and international dance companies for a one-night performance. That money, coupled with money raised from a recent tour of historic Fort Montgomery, proceeds from books written by local authors and the sale of pins and calendars will also go toward the building project. Fundraising is expected to pick up when the Historical Society receives its 501(c)(3) not-for-profit status, which it is currently in the process of obtaining, said Ms. Favreau. The federal recognition would allow the Historical Society to receive donations which would then be tax-deductible for donors. Having non-taxable status, she added, would also open the door for more available grants, which the organization actively pursues with the help of community development consultant Melissa McManus. Ideally, said Ms. Favreau, Historical Society members would like to see the building renovated either wholly or partially into a museum of village history. Other ideas include renting space to interested commercial parties or to those hosting routine events such as craft or model train shows. The possibility of the village historians office being relocated to the old depot has also been discussed and Amtrak and U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials have also been approached regarding their interest in occupying a portion of the building, though no formal response has been received, said Ms. Favreau. With a lack of architectural plans for the building, the Historical Society is relying on photographs and accounts of what the station looked like from people who worked or visited there, said Ms. Favreau. Anyone with information about the former railroad station is asked to contact Ms. Favreau at 297-2964 or board vice president Mary Racicot at 297-6138. The public is also invited to attend Historical Society meetings, in order to learn more about the project. Meetings are held the second Wednesday of each month at Halstead Hall of Rouses Point Civic Center, 39 Lake St., beginning at 6:30 p.m. Donations toward the project may be made payable to the Rouses Point-Champlain Historical Society, P.O. Box 144, Rouses Point, N.Y. 12979.

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