Lacey plans train depot's return

LACEY - The train depot was the centerpiece of the Lacey community in the decades prior to the city's incorporation. Hundreds would pass through it on their way to the horse track across the road or to one of the numerous lakeside resorts.

“It really was the gateway to Lacey,” Assistant City Manager Scott Spence said.

The depot is believed to have been torn down in the early 1940s.

Now an effort is under way to recreate the depot.

Acting on a recommendation from its historical commission, the Lacey City Council has approved a proposal to rebuild the depot at the same spot near the intersection of Clearbrook Drive and Pacific Avenue and construct it to the nearly exact specifications of the original. It would be located behind The Floor Trader, 5700 Lacey Blvd.

The new depot would be scheduled for completion on Dec. 5, 2016, the 50th anniversary of the city’s incorporation.

The City Council also approved $50,000 in seed money to jump-start the project.

The project is expected to cost $3.5 million and would be paid for with state, federal and foundation grants and community fundraising.

Once completed, the setting for the depot would be far different than when it was first built more than a century ago. The new depot would serve as a museum, not as a ticket office and home for the stationmaster and his family. It would be located next to a walking and biking trail and not the railroad.

The Northern Pacific Railway Co. constructed the depot in 1891. It abandoned it in 1933.

Northern Pacific was one of four major railways that merged to become Burlington Northern in 1970. Now BNSF Railway, the company sold a section of the abandoned track that runs by the depot site in 2004. The city has transformed the old railroad into the Lacey Woodland Trail that runs from the Chehalis Western Trail to Woodland Creek Community Park.

Three years ago, while celebrating the city’s 40th anniversary, the City Council directed its historical commission to recommend a project to commemorate its upcoming golden anniversary. The commission works in concert with the Lacey Historical Society, a separate, nonprofit organization.

Research revealed that the city owned the original depot site and, with assistance from the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association and the Minnesota Historical Society, the original building plans for the depot were obtained. Northern Pacific was headquartered in St. Paul, Minn.

Details in the plans include the types of wood used and the color of paint, said Amber Raney, museum curator. Not everything will be the same; building and fire codes have changed dramatically since the original depot was torn down.

“For the most part, it’s going to be exactly what it was,” she said.

Raney said the existing museum in the historic neighborhood east of Saint Martin’s University must remain a museum, otherwise the property reverts back to the Lacey Women’s Club. The club donated the property to the city for that specific use.

The building that houses the museum was a volunteer fire station and served as the first City Hall after Lacey incorporated.

However, it was noted in the presentation to the City Council last week that the current museum has no more room to grow its collection and its tucked-away location is difficult for the public to find.

Raney said that with the addition of the depot, she could split the collection between the two locations to focus on different eras of the community’s history.

The presentation to the City Council noted that the depot museum will serve as a further reminder of the city’s rich history and heritage.

“Many society members remember the importance that the train was in their lives during those earlier Lacey years,” said Shirley Dziedzic, Lacey Historical Society president, in a news release. “The Lacey Train Depot is the perfect project to recognize and celebrate the city of Lacey’s 50th anniversary.”

Christian Hill: 360-754-5427