|Messenger photo by Linda Dillman|
|Canal Winchester residents John and Sunya Herron pause during a visit to Canal Winchester’s historic interurban station on Aug. 25. The Herrons were looking for images of Walter Wagner, Sr., John’s grandfather, who served as an engineer on the line when it traveled through the village in the early 1900s.|
Life is slowly returning to an icon of an earlier era in Canal Winchester history when the favored mode of transportation from Columbus to points east was by electric rail connecting towns large and small.
The village’s interurban station, once a free-standing structure now imbedded into the iBeam Solutions building and south of Chase Bank, is undergoing a facelift back to its heyday when it was built in 1905 of distinctive iron spot brick.
As part of the Scioto Valley Traction Line, the interurban was an electric light rail system used for passenger and freight service and ran on a "third rail" track, which brought electric service to Canal Winchester and was the lifeblood of village transportation until the popularity of cars and trucks outstripped rail service.
The village bought the station in 2002 from South Central Power-when the utility moved to the industrial park-to prevent further change and preserve the structure’s history. Volunteers, led by Councilman Bruce Jarvis and community activist Bob Garvin, spent weekends tearing down the ceiling and walls inside the building and removing stucco from the structure’s brick facade in preparation for restoration work.
A look at history
On Aug. 25, the community was invited to tour the station, which was decked out in patriotic bunting, and listen to presentations by Jarvis, Mayor Jeff Miller, Patti Flowers, wife of State Representative Larry Flowers, and Ed Simpson, chief of staff for State Attorney General Marc Dann.
"At the time when this station was built, the population was only 700 and it stayed that way for a long time," said Jarvis as dozens of visitors viewed the work in progress and munched on free hot dogs. "It’s a symbol of a lot of changes in this town. It wasn’t a huge system, but it was a way of getting from town to town. Better roads, paved roads, and trucks signaled the end of this type of transportation.
"The interurban stopped service in 1930 and the building was used as storage from 1957 to 2002. It was purchased for preservation at the time with no particular game plan at the time. We formed a subcommittee and discussed what to do about the building, what it should look like in the future, and a game plan.
"This is the starting point for our vision and we wanted to share that with you. We want to have it to a restored state by spring of next year."
John Herron and his wife, Sunya, were looking for more than just examples of the village’s vision for future use of the station, which includes creation of a multi-purpose conference and meeting area available to the public. Herron was looking for images of his grandfather, Walter Wagner Sr., who served as an engineer on the Scioto Valley Traction line when it ran through Canal Winchester.
Miller said the project began in the hands of many and there will be many more before restoration is complete. He called the station a "gem and a wonderful thing to preserve" during his remarks.
"Canal Winchester has enjoyed a rich history all around transportation beginning with the native Americans and their migration trails. The Ohio and Erie Canal ran right through town and the steam locomotive is part of our history as well," remarked the mayor.
Although her husband was ill and unable to attend the ceremony, Flowers said the couple applauds the work of the village and those connected with the project for taking on the restoration effort.
"How do we know where we’re going if we don’t know where we’ve been?" concluded Flowers.
In quoting Theodore Roosevelt during his inaugural speech, Simpson said the president talked specifically about projects like the interurban restoration effort and why it is important to preserve history.
"It’s projects like this that keeps the community strong," continued Simpson. "This is an excellent example of public and private money coming together to keep this community strong. Theodore Roosevelt probably understood this idea of leaving something for the next generation better than anyone else and he understood the idea of working together today for folks we’ll never meet."