Depot project nears completion

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Wheaton Depot renovation project is nearing completion. Historical society members and other volunteers are working to finish the interior of the building, and landscaping work on the property could begin within the next few months.

"It is wonderful to see our vision come to life," said Ralph Lamberson, historical society member. "We need to get the central heat and air, guttering and insulation above and below installed. We need funding to complete that work."

The renovation project began around a year ago when volunteers began dismantling the dilapidated building. Materials that were reusable were removed from the building and placed in storage.

Over the next 52 weeks, volunteers, led by Lamberson and JP Hickman, replaced the wood siding and installed insulated glass over panes and a yellow pine tongue and groove floor inside the depot building.

Most recently, volunteers have insulated, wired, sheet rocked and painted the depot's interior walls. Plumbing has also been installed for a restroom that was added at the north end of the building.

"We are finishing the trim and painting," said Hickman. "We also need to install the base boards, sand all the floors and varnish the woodwork."

The original ticket window was reinstalled in the building, and a coal stove similar to the one that once heated the depot will be placed inside the facility.

After the interior work has been completed, volunteers plan to begin landscaping the property around the depot, which will feature a railroad track with a caboose and a winding brick walkway created by numerous bricks that have been sold to help fund the renovation project.

"We continue to work to raise money for the depot, and we are still selling bricks," said Hickman.

Gift bricks, which cost between $50 and $1,000, can be purchased as a memorial or tribute to local businesses, organizations, friends or family members. Bricks can be ordered by calling historical society member Sheila Young at 1-800-789-0182. All brick purchases are tax deductible.

The Wheaton Historical Society also continues to accept new members. Families can join the organization for $20 per year. Individual membership dues are $15 annually. Donna Youngblood serves as membership chair and can be reached at 417-652-3165.

Over the last year, the historical society has hosted several community events to raise additional funds for the depot renovation project. The next fundraising event will be held at the end of this month.

The 2008 Fall Festival Fundraiser will be held in the Wheaton City Park at 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 31. The event will offer mule and horse drawn wagon rides, a pumpkin decorating contest, apple bobbing, a pie auction, karaoke, a bon fire, a 50/50 drawing and other activities.

A costume contest will be held at 7:30 p.m. Cash prizes will be awarded in four categories. Candy bags will be distributed to all children attending the event at 8 p.m.

The Wheaton High School Smokin' Dogs Competitive Cooking Team will sell chili throughout the evening. Hot and cold drinks and desserts will also be sold during the event.

All proceeds from the fall festival event will benefit the Wheaton Depot renovation project.

Next year, when the Wheaton Depot Museum begins operating on a regular schedule, the facility will offer a variety of historical memorabilia from the city and the Missouri-Northwest Arkansas Railroad. It will also offer a gift shop that will sell depot souvenirs and copies of Wheaton's Centennial book, "Wheaton Echoes."

"The biggest asset of the depot museum will be the restored building itself," said Lamberson.

Items that will be placed inside the depot to complement the building include several actual Missouri-Northwest Arkansas Railroad tickets for trips from Seligman to Wheaton and a telegraph machine.

"We plan to have a display set up to show people how the telegraph worked," said Lamberson. "We are looking for donations of old showcases for other displays that will be in the museum."

Historical society members also plan to invite collectors from around the area to display items in the depot museum.

Individuals interested in learning more about the Wheaton Depot Museum or touring the facility are encouraged to call Hickman at 417-652-7458.

For more information on the renovation project, visit

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