Several Porterdale City Council members and town residents braved the cold wind to attend the dedication and ribbon cutting of the renovated Porterdale Train Depot Thursday morning.
Porterdale Mayor Bobby Hamby said restoration work on the exterior of the building began in 2004 when the Georgia Department of Transportation awarded a Transportation Enhancement Grant to the city in the amount of $278,000, or roughly 60 percent of the total projected cost of renovation.
The Porterdale Depot stands on Hemlock Street across Ga. Highway 81 from the Porterdale Mill Lofts and was opened in 1898. Rail lines were extended from Covington to Porterdale and the depot was built.
"The depot was vital to the mill and town because of the large amounts of goods being transported to and from the mill," Hamby said.
Hamby said beginning in the 1920s and lasting through both world wars, the mill was the largest twine producer in the world operating with 75,000 spindles.
"This depot connected us with customers in foreign countries across the globe," Hamby said.
He said rope for the Titanic probably passed through the depot on its way to Liverpool, England.
Hamby added the depot's existence is considered to have contributed to the listing of Porterdale on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.
Former chairman of the Porterdale Historic Planning and Preservation Committee Chuck Roseberry, whose family has resided in Porterdale since before the Civil War, said he was impressed with the work completed on the building considering state of disrepair it had fallen into after years of abandonment.
"This thing here was just horrible," Roseberry said. "I didn't think we'd ever get anything done with it, but it takes money to do anything."
Roseberry said he had even suggested throwing a tarp over the unsightly building before the TE grant was awarded to the city for the project.
Needle Developers, which also did the renovation work turning the Porterdale Mill into lofts and shops, did the construction work on the building.
Project Manager Tom Dulaney said his crews were used to working in Porterdale and construction went smoothly except for the wait for materials that had to be custom ordered and built to maintain the historical integrity of the architecture.
"You couldn't just run out to Home Depot to get things," Dulaney said.
Dulaney found the front door of the depot most interesting because a soldier wrote his name and the date on it before going off to serve in World War II.
"We made a real effort to keep the door as is," Dulaney said. "It's been that way for 60 years."
The restored depot now has a covered gathering area and stage in front, wheelchair access to a large center room and a back room with large bay windows.
Hamby said the eventual goal is to have the depot become a place where the city as well as civic and private organizations can hold meetings, receptions and events.
"Also, it will be our trail-head for the trail system which will connect us with the Newton County trail system," Hamby said
The Friends of Porterdale, also raising money to restore the Porterdale Gym which burned in 2005, have taken on the responsibility of raising money to finish the interior.
Visit www.friendsofporterdaleinc.org to see photos of the progression of the Porterdale Depot renovation or to make a donation.