Peach County train depot listed among Georgia’s historic sites in peril

The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation declared the Fort Valley Freight Depot and endangered historic site.
The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation declared the Fort Valley Freight Depot and endangered historic site.

A century and a half ago, Fort Valley’s Freight Depot served as the agricultural gateway for the city’s bustling cotton and peach industries.

Now, after decades of neglect, it’s literally falling apart.

Broken windows behind rusted steel bars, missing planks and overturned plastic furniture in the yard are among the visible signs of neglect.

On Wednesday, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation declared the depot as one of its 10 endangered historic sites on the 2018 Places in Peril list. The list, in its 13th year, is meant to raise awareness about Georgia’s important historic, archaeological and cultural resources that are threatened by such things as demolition, neglect or lack of maintenance.

The depot is situated between tracks now used by the Norfolk Southern railway and the Georgia Southern railway. The railroads deeded the building to the Fort Valley Downtown Development Authority under the condition that it be relocated. Otherwise, it will be demolished, according to the Georgia Trust.

The 1871 depot features deep, overhanging eaves, round-arched service doors and carved brackets. Only 10 depots of a similar design remain in Georgia.

Plans to save the depot have been in the works for more than a decade.

In 2006, the Fort Valley Downtown Development Authority received a federal transportation grant to rehabilitate the depot and transform it into a transportation museum.

Authority chairman Bobby Barnes said the $850,000 grant is contingent upon a 20 percent match with local money.

“It has taken us a long time to find funding to get that match,” Barnes said Wednesday. “We have plans to get the building moved to another site.”

The latest update for the project, a 2008 cost projection listed on the Georgia Department of Transportation’s website, estimated that rehabilitating the building would cost more than $1 million.

Barnes said it has not yet been decided where the depot will be relocated.

Fort Valley has three turn-of-the-19th century railroad buildings. including the switching station, which is is being leased to an insurance company, and the passenger rail depot, which was partially renovated then sold.

The freight depot’s inclusion on the 2018 Places in Peril list “hopefully will bring a little bit more attention to the property,” Barnes said. “Once you lose a building, it’s gone.”

Other sites on the 2018 list include:

▪  A.J. Gillen Department Store in Oglethorpe County;

▪  Bibb City Elementary School in Muscogee County;

▪  Cuthbert Water Tower in Randolph County;

▪  Fire Station No. 2 in Floyd County;

▪  Foster-Thomason-Miller House in Morgan County;

▪  Kit Jones Vessel constructed on Sapelo Island in McIntosh County;

▪  National Library Bindery Company in Fulton County;

▪  Olmsted Linear Park Properties in DeKalb County;

▪  Underground Savannah in Chatham County.

For more information about places on the list, visit http://www.georgiatrust.org/.

Laura Corley: 478-744-4334, @Lauraecor