A historic Kent railroad depot once at risk of being torn down will be preserved near its original site.
Ted Klaassen Jr., president of Components & Equipment International, Inc at 849 W. Main St. in Kent, has come forward to save the former Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway train station located directly across the street from his business.
The depot, built in 1881, will be lifted off its foundation and relocated to Klaassen's property on July 27, said Matt Stein, owner/operator of Stein House Movers Inc. Stein's company has been working this week to excavate the foundation in preparation of the move they will complete.
"You can't save everything that's historic," said Jack Amrhein, president of the Kent Historical Society, "but any time you can save something, I think it's a great thing. Kent is a railroad town, so I'm glad somebody stepped forward to save it."
Klaassen did not respond to a request for comment.
The building will be rotated so the side facing the rails will continue to point toward the rails when it's relocated, Stein said.
It's being moved on a Sunday because no trains will be running on the adjacent tracks then.
Stein said Klaassen's plans are apparently to retain the facility for personal use, possibly storage.
"Even if people can't go in it, they can still see it," Amrhein said. "Just seeing it, for a lot of people, is comfort enough that a little piece of history was saved."
The depot is now located next to the Carter Lumber Co. store on West Main Street.
The company acquired the property in 2012. The structure was turned over to them shortly before Kent Feed and Supply -- a store operating inside the depot -- closed for business and vacated the small, red-and-white building last year.
Chuck Price, vice president of construction/development at Carter Lumber, said the company worked with city groups to see if anyone wanted to preserve the 133-year-old building as Carter made plans to clear the space. That yielded no takers.
Klaassen had reportedly been interested in saving the building for some time; but there was some uncertainty because whether it would be relocated was contingent on various factors, including costs for moving and preserving it, Price said.
Stein said moving the structure will cost about $15,000.
While Carter Lumber has no need for the building, Price said he's pleased the structure will be preserved for posterity. He said the space freed up when the building is moved will likely be used for additional parking.
The depot, which originally served a railroad connecting lucrative, late 19th century coal mines in southern Ohio with Cleveland's Lake Erie ports for shipping, has changed hands many times since it was built in 1881 by the W&LER, notes Kentite Bruce Dzeda, a local historian and author of "Railroad Town: Kent and the Erie Railroad."
History shows that a predecessor of the W&LER, the Conotton Valley Railroad, first constructed the depot's accompanying rails for coal shipping, joining southern Ohio mines with northern Ohio ports.
The rail's owners would then begin using it to transport passengers as well for several decades. Common trips would take riders from Kent either south to Canton or north to downtown Cleveland, Dzeda said.
The last locomotive to routinely carry passengers on those rails ran in 1938.
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