Designing for History: Etowah L&N Railroad Depot
Recently, redChair:architects was commissioned to design a permanent stage cover for the historic L&N Train Depot and Veterans Park in Etowah, Tenn. It is part of a new Tourism Enhancement Grant put into effect by Governor Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd. The grant will provide $999,000 to 29 Tennessee communities, with Etowah receiving the maximum grant of $50,000. The team at redChair is excited to contribute to the growth and empowerment of this beautiful and historically rich East Tennessee town.
A Brief History
Chartered on March 5th 1850, the Louisville and Nashville Railroad originally planned a route from Louisville, Kentucky to the Tennessee state line. In 1851, the company was permitted to extend the track directly to Nashville. By late October 1859, a train successfully completed the 187 mile journey between the two cities. The railroad also played a key role in the Civil War, where, due to its location, it assisted both Union and Confederate armies with the now 269 miles of track. Soon after the war, the company made plans to run track and train to Montgomery Alabama, with passage though Knoxville and sequentially, Etowah. Created for the Atlanta Division Headquarters of the L&N Railroad, Etowah served as a working community for the company. The depot, a fifteen room Victorian center, was the first constructed building in the newly formed Etowah. The town and depot were greatly successful in the early days, employing more than 2,000 workers by 1927. The primary visitors to the depot were passenger and freight cars. Unfortunately the decline of the station came in late 1928 when the offices were moved to Knoxville, and by 1931 the once large workforce now just consisted of 80 employees. With passenger train service halted in 1968, the depot only lasted another six years until its closure in 1974. Since its placement on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 and reopening in 1981, the depot now serves as a museum and reminder of a not so distant time when passenger trains ruled transportation. It is also used for many community focused events and activities including the Old-Fashioned 4th of July Celebration and the Fall Arts and Crafts Festival. The stage cover will allow for a connective environment between the Victorian depot and the nearby gazebo, bringing opportunities and life back to this once bustling center.