L&N Train Depot, c.1910
At the close of the Civil War, North Georgia had suffered great loss of life, prosperity, and economy, and Holly Springs was no different. Despite a grim outlook, residents of Holly Springs, including men returning from the war, picked up the pieces and pressed forward in hopes of rebuilding a thriving economy. By the 1870s, the population began increasing, due in part to the arrival of the Marietta and North Georgia Railroad. (Louisville and Nashville (L&N) Railroad acquired the rail line in 1902.) For many years, there had been discussion of bringing the railroad through Holly Springs, effectively linking Marietta with Canton, and with points even farther north. By 1878 railroad tracks were laid through Holly Springs, and reached Canton, the County seat, by 1879. By 1887, the tracks reached as far north as Murphy, North Carolina, and eventually with the Western & Atlantic Railroad, making it possible for local industries to thrive by transporting their goods to the rest of the country. Freight leaving Holly Springs included serpentine rock, granite, agricultural goods, and lumber. In later years, poultry was also exported from the community.
L&N Train Depot, 1956
By 1910, there were 63 households in Holly Springs. The rapid development can be attributed to the building of the L&N Depot, making Holly Springs more than just a place to load stone blocks, but also a place to store freight and transfer all types of goods. Farmers and miners had a much larger customer scope now that goods could be stored at the Depot, while waiting to be shipped longer distances than as far as a horse-drawn carriage could deliver them before they spoiled. Residents and merchants could enjoy shopping for goods from the local general store, not just catalogues and having to wait for their arrival. The ease of transportation of goods and people made Holly Springs a very attractive home for families and industry alike.
The depot was similar to other L&N depots built throughout the South, with Folk Victorian architectural elements. Waiting rooms were small, and stark; L&N reasoned that in rural areas, there was no need for large waiting areas. Restrooms were not a part of the original layout, but have since been added. The one-story building showcases a wide roof overhang with large triangular knee braces, with decorative beams under the gables, large platform porches and double-hung sash windows.
City of Holly Springs City Hall, 1981
On June 4, 1974, L&N Railroad Company sold the depot to the City of Holly Springs for $800. The original bill of sale is framed on the wall of the depot today, and the signatures of the original railroad agents etched into wood have been preserved into the wall and lit for generations to see.
From 1974 until the late 1990s, the depot housed City Hall, the mayor’s office, and the police station. Renovations included adding additional walls to make offices and indoor restrooms. City court took place where passengers once waited for their train to arrive, and where today, residents of the City and County can hold private events. Figure 2 shows the layout of the depot from 1974 until its renovations in the late 90s. Figure 1 shows the layout from its construction in the early 1900s (There are some discrepancies about the year it was constructed, some say 1905-1906, some say 1914. Additionally, efforts by the City and the Cherokee County Historical Society did not return any pictures of the inside of the Depot prior to those taken in its current state.) until 1974, and from the late 90s to the present, with the addition of restrooms.
During 2001 renovations
In the 1990s, the City, heartbroken over the state of disrepair that had fallen over the Depot due to the lack of funds available for upkeep, applied for and received a grant from the National Transportation Enhancements Fund. This grant, along with cash contributions and the donation of manual labor from local citizens, brought about the restored depot as it stands today, in all of its former glory. In fact, the renovation went so well, that the project was featured in the National Transportation Enhancement Clearinghouse’s publication. Not included in the grant, was money to add a new terra cotta roof tile, because the City could not prove that the original roof was tile, before a composite shingle roof was added. J.B. Owens, the last ticket agent for the depot before it closed, contacted the City about a picture he had found proving that the original roof was in fact tile. With an additional $100,000 from National Transportation Enhancement Fund, plus a $25,000 match from the City, the depot’s roof was restored as closely as possible to its original design.
In 2001, city councilman Ben Barnes told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “When we’re done, about 95% of the building will be as it was originally.” Today, the depot continues to hold a special place in the heart of Holly Springs residents. Many residents have lived in Holly Springs their entire lives, and can fondly recall memories of the depot when it was owned by the railroad. For newer residents, it is often used when trying to give directions around the City. The Holly Springs Train Depot is one of only two depots left in the County. The City of Holly Springs hopes to ensure that generations of Holly Springs residents to come will be able to visit the single structure that put their City, and arguably their County, on the map more than a century before they were born.