Big Four Depot marker dedicated
Trains coming from each end of the railroad line created a sort of unofficial "fly over" signaling the beginning of the dedication ceremony for the Ohio Historical Marker for Galion's Big four Depot yesterday morning. The marker commemorates the history and significance of the depot to the city and its citizens, as well as the state.
Former Galion Inquirer editor Dave Lace voiced the sentiments of many in the crowd when he said, "Thanks for this moment." That moment offered several Galion residents the chance to reminisce about their personal history of the depot.
Galion Chamber of Commerce Director Joe Kleinknecht told of making calls from the depot booth to his girlfriend in Crestline. That young girl is now his wife of many years. Kleinknecht used the story to emphasize the importance of taking note of what happened in the past.
"One reason we need to do this is because this generation thinks if it didn't happen in their generation it didn't happen." said Kleinknecht.
Freese Foundation representative Joice Hayden echoed the importance of the depot saying "It is a legacy for Galion."
"It really has become a painted lady in the city," Hayden added.
The restoration of the depot came after years of use for passenger rail service followed by several years of partial or non-use with various business ventures trying to make a go of it.
The depot was built and dedicated in 1900. It was rededicated in 2000 after it came into the hands of the city after years of private ownership.
Used as the division headquarters for the Cleveland, Chicago, Cincinnati and St. Louis Railroad peak passenger service occurred between and soon after World War I. At that time, 32 trains a day, including mail trains, stopped at the Galion Big Four Depot.
Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places the depot was a stop for all trains. That being the case the depot became a whistle stop for several campaigning presidential candidates. Candidates making speeches from the Galion train platforms include Al Smith in 1929, Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 and Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon in 1952.
During yesterday's ceremony Galionite Marty Cecil told the crowd her father, who was a station master at the Big Four, was sent a letter from Nixon thanking him for being engineer on the train taking Nixon and Eisenhower from Galion to Marion.
"My dad would be so excited to see the depot," Cecil said. "This was a blast in the past."
Cecil told of her use of the train to connect with friends living in northern Ohio and of taking the train to complete her education at the The Ohio State University main campus.
"My dad loved my mom, he loved me and my kids. He loved the railroad and he loved Galion," Cecil said. "He would be thrilled to see this. I know my dad is looking down and saying 'Yes you saved it!,'"
Lace also expressed his pleasure a the efforts to save the depot from which he saw baseball great Joe DiMaggio hustled through town on the way to major league baseball games. Lace also mentioned war scenes which became a regular sight to Galionites.
"We saw soldiers, sailors and airmen coming home and also going to war in uncertainty," Lace said. The saddest days were those when the coffins came in."
Now on its way to being fully restored thanks to grants from the Freese Foundation and state of Ohio Arts and Facilities Commission, City Manager Phil Honsey gave assurances the public would once again use the depot.
"There will be activity in this station in the future," said Honsey. "Not only will we restore this treasure but we will make it useful to the city on a daily basis."
"This is something wonderful in this community," Galion City Council Denny Little said, adding there is a segment of the community and state which would like to see rail passenger service restored with a stop in Galion. Until then hometown folks and visitors alike are invited to watch the progression of the restoration and to visit the site to take in the marker noting this piece of Galion history.
Story taken from the Thursday, August 21, 2003 Galion Inquirer
Also introduced was Ohio Historical Society Representative, Melinda Gilpin and Ohio Arts & Sports Facility Commission, Ms. Jayne Williams who gave information about the State's historical signage program.