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Train fete slated

By Staff | Oct 15, 2010

The Shepherdstown Train Station will commemorate 100 years of history with a daylong anniversary celebration Saturday.

The event will take place at the site of the historic station and will run from noon to 6 p.m.

According to Becky Phipps, who serves on the train station’s Board of Directors, the event will include various activities for children, art displays, storytelling, music and “fun for all age.”

Though not necessarily intended to be an educational event, Phipps hopes the celebration will provide attendees with a greater understanding of the station’s history and evolution over the last century.

Originally constructed in November 1909, the “train depot,” as it was called, served as the second station in Shepherdstown, and the first designed exclusively as a stop for passengers.

The station operated in this capacity until a court order closed its doors in 1957. The flourishing national prosperity and growth that followed World War II and the emergence of the automobile rendered railroad use almost obsolete.

One local resident can still remember the days when the passenger rail still ran.

Jay O’Hurley, proprietor of O’Hurley’s General Store, recalls taking one of the final rides out of the Shepherdstown station as a teenager. His story and many others will be featured in a video presentation produced by Shepherd University’s mass communications department for the celebration.

“I would consider it one of the very important recent historic sites because it’s only 100 years old,” O’Hurley said.

He added that he believes it is “a valuable piece of town infrastructure” and felt it would have been a shame to see it demolished after its closing.

According to Phipps the station “sat empty for 40 years becoming decrepit” before a citizens’ movement took hold of it in the 1990s to restore the site and transform it into a community space that could be of use.

She explained that the building has become a community resource. It now houses the dentist office of Dr. Davis, along with the catering company of station board president Sylvia Ellsworth. In addition, the building provides space to hold various meetings and local activities. Groups ranging from the Mountain Party to the Rumsey Society and even a Unitarian church congregation all use the space to meet.

Matt Burns, a local resident of Charles Town, has found the train station a hospitable venue for events of all types. He considers the station a second home and uses the space on a regular basis to hold musical shows and concerts, attracting a younger age group to the historic building.

“I enjoy the atmosphere where I can give kids who can’t get into bars yet a place to go and enjoy music,” he said.

Senitments like Burns’ and its historical significance are some of the reasons why Phipps believes the train station continues to be a Building worth preserving.

The 100th anniversary party, which coincides with SU’s homecoming celebration, is a free event, open to all members of the public. Light refreshments will be served and folk musician Arnold Smith will provide musical entertainment from 5 to 6 p.m.

Children’s events and contests for prizes will be held throughout the day and special commemorative gifts will go to the first 20 or so attendees who sign up to become riends of the Station at Shepherdstown, the non-profit organization that contributes to and oversees the maintenance and use of the station.

Phipps invites any and everyone to come out and participate, including Shepherd University students and alumni.

“The more the merrier.”