HAMILTON, Ohio — The train station along South Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard is a part of the city's history. Soldiers left for World War I on those rails, and those that returned came back to cheers.
"That's like the portal to the city, if you will," public services librarian Brad Spurlock said. "People can step off the train to the platform there, and that's the first part of Hamilton they saw."
CSX is planning to demolish the building in order to make way for modern double-stack container cars to pass through. The company sent out a notice giving the city of Hamilton a deadline of Feb. 28.
City leaders are looking for help in restoring the building to its former glory. Their current idea is to purchase the building, relocate it four blocks away to Third Street and Sycamore Street and restore it for one of several proposed uses:
- Station-ready depot
- Multi-modal transportation hub, partnering with Butler County Regional Transit Authority and airport shuttles.
- Hamilton industrial/railroad museum
- Restaurant, micro pub
- Farmer's Market
"The more I learn about this train station, the more I started to realize that this is something special," Hamilton Mayor Pat Moeller said. "The place does matter."
Abraham Lincoln gave a speech close to the station shortly before being elected to the nation's highest office, and U.S. President Harry S. Truman spoke nearby in 1948.
"The more I learned, the more I realized — we have to do something," Moeller said. "If it did get demolished, you can't rebuild it."
The railroad office, the waiting rooms and the train station are on Ohio's historic register.
Moeller said he thinks the building could be fixed up and given a modern purpose.
"I walked around the train station myself on Sunday," Moeller said. "I started to think this could be something special."
Currently, Moeller is looking for partners to help save the building.
"Now is the time where I think we have to get it done," Moeller said. "Gather all the interested parties, create partnerships and get this done."
The station needs some work — parts of the roof have rotted away.
Parts of the historic facade have been covered with graffiti.
But the building's bones are strong.
"Not every building of historical value can be saved, but I do think that's one that should be saved," Spurlock said.
CSX did not return WCPO's request for comment Thursday night.