The Depot's Story
Sources indicate that the building dates back to July 1911. On June 10, 1912, the Iron Mountain #6 was the first train to arrive at the new Depot. The first Prescott and Northwestern (P&NW) passenger train departed the station on June 11, 1912. P&NW continued passenger service from this depot until November 1945. The Missouri Pacific, successor to the Iron Mountain Railroad, maintained the ticket office until 1965 when the Railroad passenger service also ended. In 1969, the building was threatened with demolition.
On November 19, 1969, the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company and the City of Prescott, Arkansas entered into a lease for the 441x60 plot of land on which the depot building sits and the adjacent parking lots, with the lease effective March 18, 1970. On March 18, 1970, the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company issued a "Bill of Sale" to the City of Prescott, Arkansas for the 24'x188' one story brick depot building for the amount of one dollar. The original plans were to convert the building to city offices and a courtroom.
The noise of passing trains soon ended this plan. Briefly, there was an adult education class held in the south waiting room. The noise soon ended this project as well. From 1969 until 1972 part of the building was rented to local businesses as a warehouse. The city and county Centennial Celebration during the summer of 1972 changed the future of the depot.
Headquarters for the celebration were established at the depot. The train ride furnished by Potlatch and the P&NW Railroad that disembarked from the depot and featured the "great train robbery". Maxine Covington installed the "Short Branch Saloon" in the center hallway of the building. George Ivey built a complete replica of a pioneer cabin in the north waiting room. This exhibit was complete with a cooking fireplace, trestle table and string bed. It was this display that proved to a number of people what could be done with the Depot. A group worked to establish a state park designation for the Prairie DeAnn Battlefield. The depot would be part of this project, serving as headquarters for the park development. Led by Charles Yarbrough, others who worked so hard to get the museum going include Pam Yarbrough, Nancy Russell, Nancy Worthington, Norman Whitaker, Dorothy Whitaker, Margaret Pemberton, Bernice Berryman, Mary Joe Hamilton, Frances Thrasher, Wanda Stevens, Jan Stroud, John Teeter, Kay Wren and many contributors.
In 1976, the group arranged for the Chamber of Commerce office to be moved to the depot, which provided personnel to keep the building open to the public. That marked the beginning of the museum, with John Teeter volunteering as the curator. Initially, there was only a small exhibit in the north waiting room. However, dozens of people took an interest in preserving the history of the area and hundreds of items of interest poured in, including material from persons across the country. Through the efforts of the Nevada County Historical Society, application was made to the National Register of Historic Sites in 1977, and the depot was awarded historic site designation in November of 1978. Prescott was one of the first abandoned train stations in Arkansas to be so designated.
On March 10, 1978, Articles of Incorporation of the Nevada Country State Park Association were filed in Nevada County Circuit Court. The association was to operate the Depot Museum and was formed by R.C. McBrayer in his capacity as the Mayor of the City of Prescott, Bobby Taylor in his capacity as the Nevada County Judge-elect, Johnny Brannan in his capacity of President of the Prescott-Nevada County Chamber of Commerce, Charles Yarbrough, A. Glenn Vasser, Nancy Russel, John Teeter, Lawrence McKenzie, and Dan Pittman. On Sunday afternoon, May 25, 1979, the official National Register designation was held. Jack Doss of the Arkansas Cultural and Historical Commission made the presentation speech. Lieutenant Governor Joe Purcell was the chief speaker. Over 200 people attended this ceremony held under the north portico of the Depot. On May 14, 1982, the Internal Revenue Service issued its Advance Ruling declaring the Nevada County State Park Association a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. On April 20, 1992, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program provided a Grant-in-Aid for $10,000 for repairs and renovation of the building, with the funding coming from the National Parks Service.
In July 1996, marking "this month's" 85th anniversary of the depot building and the 20th anniversary of the Depot Museum, John Teeter stated that the office, north waiting room and south waiting rooms were crowded with over 2,000 items, 2,400 old photographs, family histories, church and school histories, cemetery records, railroad memorabilia, and artifacts from the Battle of Prairie De Ann. Teeter also proclaimed the future of the Depot Museum. His statement included comments of "preparing for the 21st century" by computerizing the museum's records, inventory and information and that information being placed on the Internet. Teeter also stated, "Much has been accomplished toward preserving local history during the 20 years the museum has been here. We will do much more during the next twenty years."
In February 2000, the City of Prescott received a large grant made possible by 1998's Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) and is administered by the Arkansas State Highway Commission as part of its Arkansas Transportation Enhancement Program. The grant provided for a large-scale renovation and restoration of the entire building. The museum was closed in late January 2002, while the work was done Total cost of the renovation and restoration was $233,771, with $164,888 from the grant and $66,883 from the City of Prescott. In late 2002, employees of the City of Prescott moved back the fixtures and exhibit items. The museum reopened in 2003. At the meeting of the membership and board of directors on Sunday, November 17, 2002, it was recognized that the original purpose of the Nevada County State Park Association -- to pursue the establishment of the Prairie DeAnn Battlefield as a state park -- is never going to be possible. When goals shifted to the operation of a museum, the membership and board voted to change its name to the Nevada County Depot & Museum. Once again, quoting John Teeter from July 1996: "Anything we write or say about the museum concludes with the statement that we could not operate 30 days without the complete support we receive from the City of Prescott. If anything breaks that we can't fix, someone from the city always helps. They keep the grass cut and the grounds clean. The city keeps the lights burning and the water running."
The 2002 Renovation and Restoration
In February 2000, the 1912 Missouri Pacific Depot at Prescott, which houses the Nevada County Depot Museum, was the beneficiary of a $206,110 grant for renovation and restoration. Funding of $164,888 came from the grant with an additional $41,222 from a 20% local match. The City of Prescott paid the local match, plus the architect's fee of $18,900, the $2,061 fee for grant administration, $3,700 for refinishing cabinets and displays, and $1,000 for alarm system equipment and three years of monitoring. The $66,883 came from the City's 2001 and 2002 one-cent sales tax designated for community development. The total renovation and restoration project was $233,771.
The grant application was written in November 1999, by Karen Ward of the Prescott City Council while she served as the manager of the Prescott Downtown Development Office. Without Ms. Ward's effort, the grant and resulting improvements would not have been possible.
The grant was under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) (1988). It was administered by the Arkansas State Highway Commission as part of the Arkansas Transportation Enhancement Program. Commissioner Mary P. "Prissy" Hickerson of Texarkana, who announced the grant, said requests were for about $26 million and only 82 grants for $13 million were funded for projects such as bicycle and pedestrian facilities, landscaping, scenic highway development and historic preservation. Since the grant was a fast-track project, the Prescott City Council accepted it in January 2001 and hired French and Harris Architects of Hot Springs to draw up the plans. One of the firm's partners, Ricco Harris, is a native of Prescott. Bids were to be ready by April 2001 and construction underway by August 2001. The time line had to be altered. It was hoped to not only renovate the interior and exterior of the building, but also improve the parking lots, fencing and other outside features. The cost of the total project was going to require the work to be done in phases, with some under this grant and some under a future grant. The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department wanted the exterior work done first. In order to improve the parking lots with grant funding, the City of Prescott either had to own the property or have a 30-year lease on it. While the City owned the depot building and land under it (essentially a gift from the Missouri Pacific Railroad in 1970), the land around the building was under a year-to-year lease at $150 per year. Union Pacific Railroad (the successor to MO Pac) would agree to a 30-year lease only if the City increased the annual lease amount to $1,500 and pay it in advance. The City investigated the purchase of the property, but decided to continue the existing lease. Therefore, the parking lot improvements were removed from the work to be done with this grant. What first seemed to be a setback actually provided the opportunity to do all exterior and interior work on the building with this grant. The TEA-21 grant program required 32 specific steps before construction could start. In addition, three other agencies had to be included in the approval of the plans. The Arkansas Historic Presentation Program, Americans with Disabilities Association and the National Registry of Historic Places each rejected the plans twice for minor details. When a rejection was made, the approval process had to begin over again. Plans were eventually approved, and Edie Construction of Malvern was selected as the contractor. The bid was $179,000, far lower than the possible $207,500. Another $27,710 of work was added, including more exterior lights, refinishing of the original wood floor in the freight storage room, fencing around the air conditioner unit, and a burglar alarm.
Originally, the museum was to remain partly open during the renovation and restoration with a move to the former office of the health unit. However, that building was needed for other purposes by the county, so the plans were changed to close the museum during the project and store the exhibits, displays and fixtures in the former hospital building. The museum closed by Tuesday, January 22, 2002, so the exhibits could be packed for storage. Several employees of the City of Prescott and volunteers spent many hours helping with the move, especially the fixtures and heavy displays. Work began in mid-February 2002. The work was essentially complete within the six-month time frame. City employees and volunteers once again provided many hours of help to return several fixtures and showcases to the building in early November 2002. On November 17, 2002 a VIP tour of the museum was conducted for the City Council and depot's board of directors and the work was accepted.
Next, Depot Museum personnel will complete the move of artifacts, rearrange the exhibits, and get the museum ready to reopen. At that time, a grand re-opening was planned. The depot building has undergone many changes in its history. The restoration and renovation was not intended to restore the building to any specific point in the past, but rather to create .a taste of the historic past. The grant required the exterior of the building to be restored as close to the original condition as possible, with the exception of making it handicap accessible. The large, open porch was converted to a freight room in the 1940s, so that period was chosen for the exterior of the building. By then, electricity was readily available and exterior lighting had been added to the building. The grant had no requirements for interior renovations. Initial renovation plans included a modern style with suspended ceilings and low archways for modern doors. The plans were changed to a style consistent with the 1930s with the facilities to function as a state-of-the-art museum. Now, much of the building gives the impression of a mid-1900s train station waiting room.
Here is a list of some of the work done on the project:
A wheelchair ramp was installed on west end of building.
The freight storage room on the west side of the building was converted to a display area and community room. The wooden railroad tie floor was refinished and stained. This room will be available for some community functions such as education of students in the history of the county.
Over the years, bricks in the sidewalk had been replaced by asphalt and concrete. These patches were replaced with brick pavers to look like the original construction.
The new entrance is on the street side of the building, not from the back of the building next to the fence. Brick pavers at this door were re-layed to create easy access for wheelchairs.
All electrical and phone service was run into the building underground and overhead connections were removed to allow the depot to more accurately match the original appearance from 1911.
Outside light fixtures were replaced with those consistent with the 1940s. The lights come on in the evening to provide pleasing highlighting of the building's features.
The electrical system, inside and out, was updated.
Wiring was installed for a telephone system and computer networking.
Fire alarm and security systems were installed.
Central air conditioning and heating units were installed. Fences were placed around the outdoor units.
The interior was updated to retaining the historical flavor of the 1930s. Ceilings were left high. Door archways were left high. Rotten or removed windowsills, window framing, and door framing was restored to match the original condition of the building. Much of the original trim was used and other trim made to match. Several interior doors were restored or refinished. The wooden paneling and lowered ceiling in the old entry/office area were removed.
Plaster on the ceilings, which had suffered from years of vibration from passing trains, was replaced with sheet rock and brought up to date.
Commercial tile was installed in the original waiting rooms on the east side of the building.
All plumbing and sewer connections were completely redone to meet modern codes.
Restrooms were modernized and made accessible to handicapped and disabled.
A separate office area was created for the depot manager. This allows for more secure storage of records and photos.
A small coffee bar area was added to one of the waiting rooms.
The two storage rooms were cleaned, sealed, and had heating and air added to allow for better storage of historic materials.
Some items donated to the museum have been made ready for display. One example is the wall unit originally located behind the chairs at Fore's Barber Shop.
Several fixtures were restored or refinished.
Jon Chadwell, prior Executive Director of the Prescott-Nevada County Economic Development Office, handled most of the planning details and monitored the construction.