Renovating the Ringgold Depot

Click here to start at the beginning of this series

My memories of the depot are limited to the very recent. I cannot tell you very much about the depot’s use in the 1970s or 80s. I’d imagine it saw a brief spur of attention in the 1960s around the time the infamous “General” made its return trip to Kennesaw, bringing the locomotive through Ringgold once again. I’m hoping some visitors of the blog might be able to pen their own memories of the depot, filling out the narrative. That being said, I can provide some personal insight for the depot in the 1990s. I should know, I spent a lot of my childhood right across the street from it.

When I was a kid, my grandfather (Papaw) owned Robertson’s TV and Appliances in Ringgold. They specialized in fixing and selling TVs, VCRs, washers and dryers. This was not a bad gig to have in those days and he got a lot of business. Thankfully he sold it before the Wal-Mart Supercenter and Best Buy moved in, destroying local business. Because my parents worked in Chattanooga, my Papaw usually picked my cousins and I up from school and took us back to the store with him. This store was right across the street from the depot.

Ringgold, GA 30736 - Google Maps

 

I can remember playing in the dirt parking lot in front of the depot, depicted in the picture at the top. What I can also remember is not many people going in or out of that building. The state still owned the depot at that time, and there it sat in a state of peril. Granted I was a kid at the time so knowledge of the internal workings of the depot in the 90s is severely limited to me. Especially prior to renovations. Thankfully, to the credit of the community, locals rallied to preserve and restore the dilapidated building.*

At some point in the mid-90s, The Ringgold Depot Preservation Corporation and the city purchased the depot from the state. Between that time and 1999, the Depot Preservation Corporation replaced floors, added restrooms and installed air conditioning units in the depot. These were early steps in an eventual long term plan. On March 22, 1999, the city council voted to allocate $8,000 for updating the depot. Additionally, the city set aside $44,000 from the local hotel/motel tax for renovations. Plans were made to restore the old ticket booths and waiting rooms as authentically as possible. Originally those waiting rooms were segregated, I am not certain if that image was a part of the restoration. I need to return to see how “authentic” that restoration actually was. If they did somehow preserve that remnant of the Jim Crow era, it would be a great civil rights history lesson for the local schools. Additionally, the Preservation Corporation planned on improving the landscape around the depot and installing permanent doors, removing the plywood that stood in their place.[1]

A few weeks later on April 7, 1999, the city unveiled plans for the new renovations. Using the expertise of Ross Andrews (sketch below), the city planned on constructing a courtyard and a new deck. The city hoped that these measures would make the depot more aesthetically pleasing. Mayor Joe Barger commented on the plans saying “I think what we are trying to do now is landscape, to make it more attractive and more serviceable.” Although Ringgold natives had heard rumors about renovations in the past, these actions seemed proactive and the community responded well.[2]

Click on the picture, it will link you to Ross Andrew’s architecture website. It has some incredible before and after pictures.

Of course, there were delays. It is hard to decipher exactly how much work was done in between 1999 and 2003.  An article dated July 15, 2003 reveals frustration among city council members. Architect Ross Andrew presented new plans for the landscaping outside of the depot. Bill McMillon felt upset that construction had not already begun. He stated, “Why do we keep redesigning? We’ve provided what we wanted two months ago and we are still waiting. We were trying to expedite.” Some of these redesigns came as a consequence of local involvement. Mayor Barger met with local Sons of Confederate Veterans members who wished to include the names of Confederate soldiers that enlisted in Catoosa County on bricks in the courtyard. This replaced an earlier idea for a monument that would include those names. Mayor Barger pointed out that such a venture would cost around $4,200 and the SCV at time had only raised $200. However, the mayor and the city council, agreed that history was important and that such an addition would be beneficial. The council also intended to plant a large flag pole to the right of the depot featuring a Georgia state flag and U.S. Flag. Additionally, two flagpoles were planned for the front of the depot which would include period flags for the Confederacy and the United States. Realizing that the depot remained empty and closed off to the public, the city council decided that the project should not wait on the engraved bricks. McMillon pointed out that the funding for that venture should come from the SCV and other outside sources, not from the tax payers. The city voted unanimously to proceed with renovations using blank bricks for the courtyard. The city provided options for the SCV to replace those bricks later on.[3]

Although the work proceeded, it did not come without adversity. In May 2004, construction continued to drag along. The city council voted to dissolve the Depot Museum Committee, noting little progress. The council and city manager replaced that committee’s intended purpose, to present a local history of Ringgold in the depot. The intention was to focus on local heroes rather than well known historical figures.[4] In July of that year, a fire broke out on the construction site but work did not seem to be stifled by it. In reality, the fire served to bring the unfinished depot to everyone’s attention. Tensions were starting to flair, renovations were behind schedule. The city, which originally scheduled the depot for the SCV’s use on July 29 of that year, had to cancel due to the ongoing project. Additionally, the city council felt that contractors hired to complete the project were incredibly behind schedule. A fairly correct assertion given that the original date of completion was February 2004.[5]

In September 2004 after seven months of delays, the depot renovations finally concluded.  The depot was officially opened for business. Today, a host of events can be found going on at the depot. The Ringgold Opry performs routinely at the location. Additionally, it is available for rent. Weddings, birthdays, fundraisers and a whole host of other activities take place in the depot today. It has truly become a useful landmark in the town and a worthwhile investment.

depot


 

*If anyone reading this is from the area and can remember stories, events, or any casual business taking place in the depot prior to the renovations, please leave those narratives in the comments sections. I would love to hear them.

[1] Carrie A. Hewson, “Renovations Underway at Historic Ringgold Depot,” The Catoosa County News, (March 31, 1999), Ringgold, GA.

[2] Carrie A. Hewson, “Depot Renovations Plans Call for a Courtyard and Handicap Parking,” The Catoosa County News, (April 7, 1999), Ringgold, GA.

[3] Randall Franks,”Ringgold Depot Debate Continues: Ringgold Official Anxious for Project’s Completion,” The Catoosa County News, (July 23, 2003), Ringgold, GA.

[4] Randall Franks, “Ringgold Depot Work Continues,” The Catoosa County News, (May 5, 2004), Ringgold, GA.

[5] Randall Franks, “Work Continues on Historic Ringgold Depot,” Walker County Messenger, (July 23, 2004), Lafayette, GA.

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One thought on “Renovating the Ringgold Depot

  1. Pingback: Update on the Ringgold Depot Flag Dispute | The Historic Struggle

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