HAMILTON, Ohio — How much would you spend to preserve history? It’s the big question the City of Hamilton is struggling with when it comes to saving a historic CSX rail station.
The idea of moving the building and repurposing it for a modern use was floated before residents in February – now the city is eyeing a price tag of several hundred thousand dollars to save it.
The fate of the building came down to a city council vote Wednesday evening.
“Let’s use what we have,” Hamilton resident Phil Thayer said. “Use that history. Take advantage of the beauty we have in Hamilton we’re so lucky to have.”
For Thayer, it’s a matter of saving history. For now, the future of the train station is at a crossroads.
“I don’t have a great idea of what it should be,” he said. “I know it needs to be saved. It has a lot of great options for what it could become. It just has to be saved first.”
Hamilton’s City Council was presented with an ordinance to accept a donation of the train depot by CSX, but it comes with a steep price tag. Physically uprooting the building – adding a foundation – and moving it 500 feet to Maple Avenue adds up to an estimated cost of $600,000. On top of that – renovating the entire area could cost nearly $1.5 million.
“I struggle with the cost to relocate the historic depot,” Hamilton mayor Pat Moeller said. “I really, really struggle with the loss of a historic building that connects Hamilton to Lincoln, Truman and Eisenhower.”
Council member Susan Vaughn opposes the idea of spending general fund dollars to move the building.
“We received thousands of signatures on petitions,” she said. “Maybe if each one of those came with a $100 commitment, maybe we would’ve raised $200,000. Maybe that would help with the moving.
Some council members believe the money could be put to better use elsewhere.
“There’s so much more we can do with this that should be affecting the people living and breathing here right now,” council member Carla Fieher said. “To put any general money into it right now I think it’s a sin.”
This was a sentiment Moeller argued.
“No other building in this city has that authentic history,” he said. “We seem to get more and more convince stores, but less and less historic buildings.”
His vision is centered around the opportunity a renovation could bring.
“I envision Maple Avenue being a historic railroad district,” Moeller said. “Taking a block at a time. What’s the first block? That can be the historic CSX train depot.”
Thayer said this is an opportunity the city can’t afford to pass up.
“In Hamilton we’ve seen those costs pay off,” he said. “They brought up the Municipal Building where Municipal Brew Works is now. They didn’t know what was going to happen with it years and years ago when they saved it. They didn’t know that Spooky Nook was going to become Spooky Nook. And now the community is looking at that to be an economic driver.”
The vote passed five to two; Hamilton now has possession of the building.
At the next city council meeting in two weeks’ time – city leaders will decide if they want some, all, or none of Hamilton’s historic train station to be saved.