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Nathan Baker

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Workers try to preserve heyday look of depot

November 2nd, 2013 9:38 pm by Nathan Baker

Workers try to preserve heyday look of depot

(Photos by Tony Duncan/Johnson City Press)

At the 104-year-old Carolina, Clinchfield and Ohio Railroad Depot, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Through most of this year, crews have surveyed the historical building for rot, cracks and damage, and rebuilt a large portion of the depot’s freight bay and the two-story adjoining offices to as close to true to the original building plans as modern building practices will allow.

Scott Rainey, president of Rainey Contracting, said workers found more rotted wood than expected in the bay’s roof and timbers, but said most of the work to repair it is now complete.

The southeast wall at the end of the platform was also too badly cracked to repair, Rainey said, so it was torn down and then rebuilt using the original bricks.

“Our goal is to make it look like it did in its heyday,” he said. “Before we started taking anything down, we took a lot of pictures and notes, so we could get everything back the way it should be.”

One of the bygone construction techniques used by the CC&O depot’s original builders is called friction fitting for the joints of the wooden beams used to support the awnings above the doors and the covered outdoor platform.

Rainey said new wooden beams had to be precisely notched and fit together so they can bear the weight of the roofs they support.

By accurately rebuilding the century-old depot, developers Greg Cox and Joe Baker hope to recoup 20 percent of the construction costs through the Historic Preservation Tax Incentives program, which provides tax credits for the rehabilitation and re-use of certified historic structures.

With most of the work completed in the freight bay, where Asheville, N.C.-based restaurant Tupelo Honey Café plans to open in the spring, work will now center on the offices, which the developers plan to fill with retail business on the first floor and offices on top.

Rainey said the shell of the freight bay should be ready to turn over to Tupelo Honey near the first of the year, so the restaurant can begin moving in its equipment and furniture and finishing the 5,800 square feet to its own specifications.

Elizabeth Sims, Tupelo Honey’s director of marketing, said now that the rehab work is nearing completion, the restaurant will have more representation on site.

“We’ve been over there a bunch of times in the last few weeks,” she said Friday. “Our construction manager and I were just over there this week to check things out.”

Sims said the restaurant is planning for a March opening, after the kitchen and dining room is set up.

“We’re all very excited to see the progress going on in Johnson City’s downtown,” she said. “It’s very gratifying to see the train depot building being preserved and knowing that we’re a part of it.”

The CC&O depot is a major part of the revitalization efforts taking place in the downtown area by both public and private entities.

Landscaping and sidewalk work at Founders Park, in sight of the depot’s platform across West State of Franklin Road, should be completed by city workers by the end of the year.

Utility service providers are also upgrading electric, water, sewer and phone lines in the downtown area to match a potential capacity increase when new commercial and residential ventures open.

City officials estimate the utility work could last into next year.

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