Plain City unveils Public Square project

The village of Plain City has created a vision for an uptown gathering place called Public Square. The first phase, set to start this summer, involves the relocation of an historic train depot from Upper Arlington to Plain City. Future phases include the creation of a park and a marketplace. This rendering represents a preliminary visualization for the overall project that serves as a starting point and is subject to change.

(Posted Feb. 20, 2024)

The village of Plain City is embarking on the first phase of its Public Square project, a multi-phase endeavor to create a community gathering place in the heart of the village. The initial phase, known as The Depot at Public Square, involves the relocation of an historic railroad depot from Upper Arlington to Plain City’s historic Uptown District.

With unanimous support from village council, the village has closed on the purchase of the depot from the Fromm family of Upper Arlington. The 1,473-square foot depot was originally constructed in the 1880s in Brice, Ohio, to serve the Shawnee and Columbus Railway. In 2004, the depot was relocated to northwest Columbus where it underwent a meticulous reconstruction and restoration by Barry Fromm. Many of the original depot components were retained, including the wooden walls and ceilings, while others were salvaged from other historical structures. The depot was the centerpiece of a larger rail collection, which also included three historic train cars that Barry restored and preserved. The depot and its rail collection served the community as a museum and meeting and event venue.

After the passing of Barry Fromm in 2018, Barry’s son Jordan Fromm, daughter-in-law Maria Fromm, wife Lynda Fromm, Ralph Griffith, and the team at Value Recovery Group set out to find new homes for these artifacts that would prioritize their continued preservation as historical assets.

The Fromm family selected Plain City to acquire the depot based on Plain City’s vision for incorporating it into the Public Square project.

“A goal of staff and council is to create unique gathering spaces in our Uptown District that complement our local businesses and landmarks of Plain City. I’m eager to see the addition of the Public Square project come to life and help round out our uptown amenities”, said Haley Lupton, village administrator.

Upon being dismantled and shipped to Plain City, the depot will serve as the cornerstone of the larger Public Square project, where it will provide space for events, visitor amenities, commercial ventures, and historical displays. Relocation is anticipated to occur in June with the facility opening to the public in early 2025.

When considering purchasing the depot, village officials cited Plain City’s ties to the railroad industry which date back to July 4, 1853, when the first train passed through the community, then known as Pleasant Valley, on the Columbus & Indiana Central Railway (a predecessor of the Pennsylvania Railroad and later, Conrail). It later hosted the Abraham Lincoln Funeral Train in 1865.

By the late 1800s, Plain City was one of the leading stations in Ohio for shipping livestock. Large corrals in the community held cattle, sheep, and hogs. Items from all over the country could be shipped in, as well. For example, stores in town frequently advertised fresh oysters for sale, brought in from the east coast. In addition to the economic advantages provided by the railroad, it also served as a link to Columbus and points beyond. After passenger service ended in the 1940s, the village’s original depot was demolished in the 1960s. The final train passed through Plain City on July 17, 1986.

The future location of the depot, and the Public Square project, pays homage to Plain City’s history. Historical maps from 1862 and 1875 reveal that the area slated for the Public Square project was referred to as “Public Square.” Positioned at the corner of East Bigelow Avenue and Church Street, the site served as the original location for Plain City’s town hall, fire department, school, and other early community buildings. Currently owned by the village, the site is undergoing preparation, including the addition of a new public parking lot. The name “Public Square” is not only due to the project’s location on the historically recognized public square but also because public squares have always been significant spaces for community engagement.

“The vision for the Depot and Public Square brings excitement to our town and solidifies a place to gather as a community for many years to come,” said Mayor Jody Carney.

Future Phases
Beyond the depot, future phases of the Public Square project include The Park at Public Square. This outdoor gathering space will include a splash pad, children’s play area, trailhead, event space, fire pit, and seating areas.

Looking ahead, the village has plans to repurpose an existing historical building into The Marketplace at Public Square. This indoor marketplace will offer dedicated space for seasonal vendors, small businesses, and a variety of community events. These phases will occur as funding becomes available.

For more information about Public Square and updates on future phases, visit www.plain-city.com/public-square.

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