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Public can tour restored Wheaton Depot

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Wheaton Historical Society will host a building preview of the recently restored Wheaton Depot from 2 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 13.

"The society members feel that the depot itself is absolutely the best item on display at the museum," said Ralph Lamberson, Wheaton Historical Society member. "We are really proud of it and want to show it off before we move the displays in so that people can get the feel of what it was like."

Over the last year, historical society members have worked to renovate the once dilapidated depot building. Volunteers have replaced the wood siding, installed insulated glass over panes and placed a yellow pine tongue and groove floor inside the facility.

Plumbing was installed in the depot for a restroom that was added at the north end of the building. Volunteers also insulated, wired, sheet rocked and painted the depot's interior walls.

"The inside has been completely renovated and the outside work is done except for the landscaping," said Lamberson. "After the sidewalk project has been completed, we will level the property, let it settle and then place gravel for the railroad tracks and memorial gift bricks.

"We are still selling gift bricks," said Lamberson. "We will use that money to fund the rest of the work and future operating expenses."

Although the Wheaton Historical Society has not established regular hours for the Wheaton Depot Museum, Lamberson said that society members hope to have the depot open each weekday.

"The depot will be staffed by volunteers so it will depend on when people can be there, but we hope to be open each afternoon," said Lamberson. "We also plan to offer special tours for schools and other groups."

The Wheaton Historical Society plans to begin installing the display cases in the depot around Dec. 15. In addition to the museum items, the facility will offer an archive area with reference materials.

"We have quite a few antique showcases ready to be filled," said Lamberson. "We have a lot of railroad items, like a two-man drill. We also have an old brass sign that says The Bank of Wheaton.

"We will have a lot of items that will be of interest to the people of Wheaton," said Lamberson. "We hope to get area school kids involved. So far, we have been pleasantly surprised by the response we have received from the kids. They are really interested in what we are doing."

In addition to the permanent historical displays and archives area that will be available in the depot facility, the historical society plans to display rotating collections, which can be loaned to the museum by any community member.

"We want to make sure we have something different so that people will want to visit the depot on different occasions," said Lamberson. "We hope it's a place where the community can learn a lot about the roots of Wheaton and how the town was started.

"This is a great asset for Wheaton, and people really need to come and see what we have done," said Lamberson.

Wheaton Historical Society members will be available at the building preview to talk to interested community members about the depot's history and the renovation project.

The City of Wheaton was established by the Missouri and North Arkansas Town Site Company in 1907. The depot was completed in February of 1908, and the first passenger train began regular service through Wheaton in March of that year.

Later, management problems forced the Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad to cease operation and sell its assets. Around 1951, the railroad tracks in Wheaton were removed and the Wheaton Depot later fell into extreme disrepair.

In 1999, the depot was placed in the National List of Historical Places. It is the only original depot in Barry County.

For more information on the Wheaton Depot Museum project, visit www.wheatondepotmuseum.org.



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