The Stevenson Railroad Depot Museum in Stevenson, Jackson County, is a historic train station and museum that preserves local economic, political, and social history through the display of various artifacts and exhibits. Built in 1872 along with the nearby Stevenson Hotel, the depot was in use until 1976, when it was abandoned. In June 1982, the Stevenson Railroad Depot Museum officially opened to the public, and the nearby Stevenson Hotel operated as a restaurant; it has since closed.
Stevenson Railroad Depot The original Stevenson Railroad Depot was a one-story structure built in 1853 at the convergence of the Nashville & Chattanooga and the Memphis & Charleston Railroads. The city of Stevenson is located just north of the Tennessee River and at the southern edge of the Cumberland Mountains, making it an ideal location for rail lines. During the American Civil War, it became an important rail center, changing hands several times between Union and Confederate control. Either during the war or shortly after its end, the depot was destroyed. Construction on a new depot over the ruins of the original depot began in 1872, possibly using salvaged bricks from the original structure.
The depot is a brick and gabled-roof Italianate-style building with a central, second-story tower that was added in 1887. The adjacent Stevenson Hotel was constructed simultaneously, providing passengers along the rail line with food and board. Designed as a small eight-room hotel with a lobby and two dining rooms, the hotel was located just 30 feet away from the depot and was connected by a walkway. The Stevenson Hotel was the center of cultural activities in the town in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and reportedly was the location of the first motion picture show in Stevenson.
In 1898, the Memphis & Charleston Railroad was purchased by Southern Railway and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad purchased the depot and kept it in operation until it was abandoned in 1976. Enthusiasm for historical preservation inspired by the U.S. Bicentennial celebration that year encouraged local citizens to preserve the depot, and they raised funds to purchase the building and turn it into a local history museum. In the nearby hotel, one of the dining rooms was converted into a restaurant called the “Choo-Choo Restaurant.” The restaurant later closed and has been used for storage. Both the Railroad Depot and Hotel were collectively listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage and the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and 1976, respectively.
The museum aims to preserve an important part of railroading history through the display of related artifacts. In addition, the museum, displays hundreds of artifacts from other parts of the area’s past, including items from Native American culture, pioneer life, the American Civil War, and class photos from the local high school. During the first full week of June every year, the city holds its Depot Days Festival with events such as bingo, a yard sale, an ice cream social, an auction, a street dance, vendors, children’s activities, vintage photo shows, live music, and a fishing tournament.
The museum is located at 207 West Main Street. It is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free. Stevenson has an extensive historic district of 34 structures. As an important railroad junction throughout much of the Civil War, it was surrounded by blockhouses and earthen redoubts built by the Union Army collectively known as Fort Harker. Some of its remains are visible just to the south of the depot. To the north of Stevenson is Russell Cave National Monument.