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Tarpon Springs Depot celebrates 100th anniversary

TARPON SPRINGS — Henry Lester has fond memories of the train depot at Tarpon and Safford avenues.

His family moved to Tarpon Springs when his father was hired as a maintenance supervisor with the railroad, a job he held from 1944 to 1965.

As a child, Lester would board trains at the depot and head to Georgia so he could see his grandmother.

Now 73 and retired, Lester recently started volunteering at the city's Historic Train Depot Museum. He will be at the depot Saturday to help celebrate its 100th anniversary.

"I just think it's really super," Lester said Thursday. "It looks the same and it brings back real good memories."

As part of the depot celebration, some Tarpon Springs Middle School students used watercolors, etching, magazine clippings and pencils to create replicas of the historic building. The artwork was divided into five categories and 15 winners will be named Saturday.

City Commissioner Robin Saenger, also an artist, was the judge.

"We wanted to get the children involved to help educate them about the depot and the town's history," said Leslie Alissandratos, a board member of the Tarpon Springs Area Historical Society, which manages the museum. "We came up with the idea to have a children's art show."

Alissandratos said she contacted Carol Jenrette, art teacher at the middle school. Students were shown pictures of the depot and they were encouraged to see the depot themselves. There were 120 art submissions.

It's one of only two depots remaining in Pinellas County. Dunedin is the other.

Tarpon Springs' current depot was opened in January 1909 after a fire destroyed the previous structure a year earlier. The depot closed to passengers in 1971 and freight trains ceased making stops in 1984.

The Tarpon Springs Area Historical Society started running the depot in 1978 and helped spearhead a $900,000 renovation. The yearlong work was completed in November 2005.

The building still has its original heart of yellow pine wood floors. That type of wood was used to keep away termites, said Bob McPhee, 68, a volunteer tour guide at the museum.

The original brick walls remain with stenciled signs such as "wait for baggage man" and "positively no smoking, loafing."

The rooms where passengers waited and commodities were stored now are filled with history of the Tarpon Springs area.

There's everything from metal baby carriages and historic photos to uniforms of Tarpon Springs soldiers who served in the Korean War.

"There are items here that date back to the 1840s," McPhee said. "It's really nice."

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at dalee@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4174.

If you go

The Tarpon Springs Area Historical Society will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the train depot, which now serves as the Historic Train Depot Museum.

Where: 160 E Tarpon Ave.

When: 2 p.m. Saturday.

Featured: About 120 Tarpon Springs Middle School students submitted water colors, drawings and other artworks of the historic depot. Fifteen of the artworks will be recognized at the event. Light refreshments provided by local businesses and restaurants will be served.

Tarpon Springs Depot celebrates 100th anniversary 11/12/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 12, 2009 8:25pm]
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