Linville Depot

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Avery County was only six years old when construction started on a depot in Linville. The year was 1917, and America was in the throes of the Great War. But despite the woes in Europe, the elite in American still sought the solace of the mountains as a respite from the summer heat. Their Avery County destination was Eseeola, a summer resort built in 1892.

     The railroad had first arrived in the area in June 1882. The East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad built a line from Johnson City to Cranberry. The line's purpose was to transport the iron ore coming out of the Cranberry Mines. In 1896, the Camp brothers of Chicago began purchasing timber rights in the area, and soon began the Linville River Railroad. The line was to run out of Cranberry and into Pineola. The brothers ran out of funds before the line was laid, and the property was later acquired by William M. Ritter. The proposed line was reconstituted as the Linville River Railway. The LRR was finished to the lumber mills in Pineola. "Over the years," one historian recorded, " logging tracks were thrown down across Red Bird Gap to Jonas Ridge and to Pine Bottom, Crossnore, Altamont, Mill Timber Creek, Wilson Creek, and down the Linville River as far as Linville Falls.... Log trains also operated over the Linville River Railway's tracks from Newland, where timber was cut on Kentucky Creek and Sugar Mountain."

      In 1906, Ritter moved his main operations to Caldwell County, and the ET & WNC RR (and its parent corporation) started negotiations to purchase the LRR. This was accomplished in 1913. Another lumberman, William S. Whitting, was setting up a mill in Shull's Mill, in Watauga County. In 1915, it was agreed upon that the LRR would be extended to Shull's Mill

      After leaving Montezuma, the LRR stopped in Linville. The first depot in 1916 was an old boxcar, minus its trucks, sitting beside the track. A new depot was ready for the summer tourist season in 1917. This structure was expanded 1921. The Linville Depot was unlike any other depot on the narrow gauge line. Like many of the buildings in Linville, the depot was covered with chestnut bark, which with age, turned gray. The ornate windows and doors were painted white, and there were window flower boxes. Many local residents worked as agents at the Depot, including R. L. Clay, J. S. Campbell, T. W. Phillips, Bryan Ledford and Mary Belle Allison. The depot was located in "West Linville," about a mile from the Eseeola Lodge.

      Automobiles and better roads brought an end to regular passenger service for the Linville Depot. The Depot was closed after the tourist season in 1937. For the next couple of years, only the baggage for the summer children's camps was unloaded and loaded. The flood of 1940 destroyed the tracks just to the east of the Depot and the structure was sold in June 1941 for $50 and converted into a gas station. The building was moved at a later date to Grape Street in Linville and used as a residence.

      Untold numbers of America's wealthy and elite more than likely disembarked at the Linville Depot, taking buggies, and later cars, to visit the lodges and play golf on one of North Carolina's earliest courses.

 
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In the summer of 2007, the Linville depot was given to the Avery County Historical Society and Museum. A deadline was given for the depot to be moved, or it would be razed. In July, the Historical Society approached the Avery County Board of Commissioners, asking them if the depot could be placed behind the Museum. The Avery County Historical Museum is housed in the old county jail, which is still owned by Avery County. After a few moments of debate, Commissioner Scott Heath made a motion that the Historical Society and Museum be allowed to move the depot. Commissioner Heath called salvaging the Depot "A cool thing."

     The East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad Historical Society was instrumental in obtaining the funds to help move the depot. Not only were there monetary donations from the ET&WNC RR folks, but the members of that group, along with volunteers from the Avery County Historical Society ,spent several weekends in July and August preparing the depot for the move. A brick facade was removed from the structure, the interior braced, and a carport removed by Society members. By September, the Depot was ready.

      Early on the morning of September 10, the old Linville Depot was moved from Grape Street in Linville, up Hwy. 181, to its new home behind the old jail beside the courthouse in Newland. Over the next few weeks, a masonry foundation was installed, and the building was secured for the winter.

      The plans for the Linville Depot are to return the outside to its original appearance, with poplar bark on the outside (alas, chestnut bark is not to be had), window boxes, and other items unique to the Depot. The original Linville Depot was one of the best looking depots along the entire railroad. The interior of the Depot will house a large ET&WNC RR and Linville River Railway exhibit, detailing the life of America's most famous narrow gauge.