Monday, June 20, 2016

Almost Home – SW Virginia Historic Sites

As we drove home to East Tennessee following our short anniversary exploration of Roanoke and SW Virginia, we still had a few historic spots to find and photograph as well as one more winery to visit…

This nice looking and obviously well maintained old depot is in Dublin Virginia.   It was built in 1913 by the Norfolk and Western Railroad, the successor of the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, which had originally provided service to Dublin.   

The Dublin Historic District encompasses 130 building and sites in the town.  The district was developed around the original Virginia and Tennessee Railroad station, (built in 1854), which was named the Newbern Depot. 

This ‘new’ 103 year old depot has served as the home of several businesses during recent years…

During the Civil War, the original depot was a strategic point, allowing the Confederacy to move troops and ship supplies to Tennessee and points west. It also served as the military headquarters for the Confederate Army's Department of Western Virginia.  In addition, the Dublin Depot functioned as 1 of 3 depots established in Virginia by the Confederacy to house captured runaway slaves and free blacks taken prisoners during military operations.  
Dublin’s commercial district and the original depot was burned to the ground in May of 1864 after a Confederate force lost the battle of Cloyd’s Mountain and was forced to withdraw to the south. 

Isn’t this a great looking depot!  Love that roof line and the classic chimney too…  The Virginia-Tennessee Railroad built the Grand Old Lady of Pulaski, this historic depot, in 1888… just two years after the Commonwealth of Virginia chartered the Town of Pulaski.  This spectacular depot was built by master Italian stone masons using Peak Creek granite. 

The city of Pulaski completed a major restoration of the depot in 1994.  Sadly in November of 2008, the building was destroyed by fire.  Again, Pulaski completed a thorough historical restoration using the still intact original stone walls. 

A lot of love was put into the original design as well as the restoration of this depot.  Amazing detail…

Today the Pulaski railway station is home to the Raymond F. Ratcliffe Memorial Museum, which features artifacts, historic photographs, items from the founding industries and the town's railroad past, newspapers chronicling important events locally and nationally, and a model railroad display.  The station is also home to the seasonal Farmer's Market, where visitors can purchase local produce and farm goods. 

Everything about this resurrected depot is classy…including the old freight scale and every door in the building.  The depot served passengers until the early to mid-1970s. 

In May of this year, there was actually a meeting at the depot to discuss the possibility of reestablishing passenger service to the New River Valley at Pulaski.  With Amtrak’s passenger trains expected to stop in Roanoke in the next couple of years, those living further south in the valley have begun working toward a resumption of rail service.

This is the Pulaski County Courthouse in Pulaski Virginia.  The courthouse was built with "Peak Creek Sandstone".  The court house was originally constructed in 1896 for a little more than $20,000.  The clock and the belfry were added in 1911.   

The city of Pulaski seems to have had an issue with fires… The courthouse was reconstructed after being destroyed by fire in December of 1989.

This 3-part stone arch is the formal entrance to the Pulaski County Courthouse.  The arch was constructed to serve as the entrance to the Pulaski County exhibit at the Jamestown Exposition in 1907.

FYI…The Jamestown Exposition was one of the many world's fairs and expositions that were popular in the United States in the early part of the 20th century.  Commemorating the 300th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown in the Virginia Colony, it was staged at Sewell's Point on Hampton Roads in Norfolk Virginia.  It celebrated the first permanent English settlement in the present United States.


·       On April 8, 2011, two tornadoes hit Pulaski, destroying 31 buildings and damaging 77 others.

Moving on down the road… This was a photo I took in 2010 of the sadly deteriorating old Virginia and Tennessee Railroad Depot in Rural Retreat Virginia.  The original depot was built in 1956, primarily as a shipping point for local produce.

In 1864 Union troops burned the depot down along with trestles and depots all along the line.  Then in 1867-68 the depot was rebuilt in this unique Italianate design.    

But despite its shabby appearance…where there is a positive attitude and the will to preserve the past, there is hope!

This is the same view of the same depot.  I took this photo in April 2016!  Wow!  I must say that I was impressed and uplifting by the community’s efforts to preserve this building…

Current plans are for the former waiting room to be transformed into a modern museum with interactive kiosks describing the Depot's role in history.  The freight room will become an event space suitable for everything from weddings and reunions to theatrical and musical productions.  The preservation efforts have all been brought about through The Rural Retreat Depot Foundation at


·       Dr. Charles T. Pepper, the developer of "Dr. Pepper" soda lived in Rural Retreat.

Here was my rail side view of the Rural Retreat Depot back in 2010… Service continued at Rural Retreat until the early 1970s.

The Rural Retreat Depot is one of only 3 known surviving railroad buildings in all of southwestern Virginia that were erected during the Reconstruction period following the Civil War.  The Rural Retreat Depot is undoubtedly one of the oldest surviving railroad-related buildings found anywhere in the state. 
Here is a similar view of the depot from April of 2016.  They even added a caboose across the street from the depot!  This is the way the depot looked back in the 1940s…

To see a 1957 photo of the Rural Retreat Depot and a train that was taken by railroad photographer and historian O. Winston Link, just go to  If you like railroads and trains, it’s a classic!

Our last historic stop on our drive home to East Tennessee was the former Norfolk and Western Railway Depot in Marion Virginia.  It was built in 1904 with passenger service continuing until 1971.  The one-story stone and brick Queen Anne style building was refurbished and was converted for commercial use 1993-1994.  Unfortunately it’s looking a little shabby and needs a facelift to preserve it in the long haul.  It currently houses an architect, a tax service, a CPA firm and a hair salon. 
Marion is considered as the birthplace of the soft drink Mountain Dew despite the fact that the original drink was created in Knoxville Tennessee.   In 1961, the rights to Knoxville’s version of Mountain Dew were purchased by the Marion-based Tip Corporation.   The ‘original’ Mountain Dew flavor was reworked by Marion resident William H. "Bill" Jones.  Due to the success of the revised formulation, the Pepsi Corporation purchased the Tip Corporation in 1964.


·       Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan’s first professional assignment was in 1965 with a minor league team in the Appalachian League…the Marion Mets in Marion Virginia.

That’s all for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by to see what we’ve been up to!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. While I've driven by these towns many times on I-81, I've only been into downtown Marion, so I enjoyed seeing a little of what they look like.

  2. That is one good looking depot! The architecture, esp the chimney is very unique. It's a wonderful thing when old depots such as these are preserved, and back in the day, I can imagine how they were the nucleus of activity in towns. Great informative post, Dave!

  3. Love these buildings David, look so beautiful ! Take care!