Greenville Railroad Depot
The Greenville Railroad Depot in Greenville, Butler County, is a historic train depot constructed in 1923 along the Montgomery and Mobile Railroad. The ”Old Depot” was purchased in the 1990s by the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce, which restored the building and repurposed it as office space. As part of the West Commerce Street Historic District, the Greenville Railroad Depot stands today as representative of the role that rail transportation played in making rural towns, such as Greenville, major regional trade centers.
Greenville Train Depot Founded in 1821, the town of Greenville serves as the county seat of Butler County. A burgeoning commercial center, Greenville’s economic fortunes were hampered by its inability to transport goods and supplies to neighboring towns. In 1855, however, the Montgomery and Mobile Railroad constructed a depot and rail line through Greenville, prompting an economic boom. The rail line connected Montgomery, Montgomery County, Birmingham, Jefferson County, and Nashville, Tennessee, to the north and Mobile, Mobile County, and New Orleans, Louisiana, to the southwest. Greenville served as a major shipping point and was the only one for a six-county region. By the time of its incorporation in 1871, Greenville became the most important point on the line between Montgomery and Mobile. In 1923, the present Greenville Railroad Depot building was constructed in the Spanish Revival architectural style with a red tile roof, wide overhanging eaves, and stucco walls. In 1928, concrete steps and iron fencing were added to the building.
By 1993, the Greenville Railroad Depot had fallen into disrepair when the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce began efforts to secure funding to restore of the building. Local contributions represented more than 20 percent of the funding committed to renovation, and the remainder was provided by federal grants through the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), a law to provide federal assistance to convert dormant rail corridors into public recreational trails. In 1995, restoration work began on the depot; one of the few brick and stucco buildings of its kind remaining in southern Alabama. On January 1, 1996, the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce and Butler County Commission for Economic Development (BCCED) occupied the renovated building. Eventually, the BCCED moved to nearby Lurleen B. Wallace Community College, but the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce continues to use the Greenville Railroad Depot as its headquarters.
The building retains most of the original features, including the exterior windows and interior wainscoting as well as the ticket office and ticket window. The grand chandelier in the main foyer, however, is a reproduction donated to the building by the construction company that restored the structure. The former “Ladies Waiting Room” has been converted into office space. Its cupola served as a sheltered outlook for trains approaching the station and is now a meeting and conversation area. Constructed during the Jim Crow era of racial segregation, the former waiting room for black patrons is now a room for board meetings, and the rest of the building is filled with artwork from local artists. The old Railway Express office now serves as a kitchen and the freight room was converted into a community room for use by meetings of various local clubs and civic groups.
The West Commerce Street Historic District in Greenville was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 for its collection of commercial buildings, which were constructed around the depot as the city recovered from the American Civil War. It consists of eight buildings dating from the 1880s to approximately 1920.