Rain dampened the Texas flag covering the new Texas Historical Marker, but not the enthusiastic spirit of dozens of people at the restored Southern Pacific train depot in downtown Orange.
Thursday evening, the Orange County Historical Commission and Friends of the Orange Depot had the unveiling of the state marker.
Judge Jerry Pennington, chair of the historical commission, gave a history of the depot, which was built in 1908. He also praised Carrie Joiner Woliver for her efforts in restoring the depot, which had been vacant and abandoned for decades.
Woliver grew up in Orange and now lives in Houston. She and her husband, Ron, pulled the Texas flag off the marker, which is installed on the north side of the depot.
Orange Mayor Larry Spears read a resolution declaring the day as Orange Depot Day and also praised the restoration as helping to lead the move for improvements to the city.
The depot can be rented for meetings, gatherings, and parties.
The historical marker reads:
Orange Southern Pacific Depot
From 1908 to 1974, the Orange train depot served Sotuhern Pacific Rail Company cars passing through Orange. Prior to this time, transportation by road and on water was unreliable and unsafe, which inhibited the growth of Orange.
However, the late 1850s timber boom in Southeast Texas contributed to the need for a train depot to export Orange’s raw materials to other parts of the country. The Orange station was just one of the many stops on the through line between San Francisco and New Orleans.
As racial segregation was still in effect at the time of the depot’s construction, arrangements were made were made for two ticket windows, two waiting rooms and two restrooms for white and black passengers. In the early 1960s, a large wall dividing the black waiting room and the baggage/freight area was removed.
After the train depot’s closure in the e1970s, various entities intemittently used the building until a fire in 1990 damaged the roof and interior, but the brick walls and interior walls were undamaged. The train depot remained abandoned until 2013, when a local non-profit group raised the funds to restore the building to its original condition.
Work Crews built a new roof on the structure, expossed the cross-hatched windows on the second store and returned the building to its original brick color and green trim. The restoration efforts allow the historic train depot to be enjoyed by Orange area citizens and visitors alike.