Since 1994, the Alabama Historical Commission (AHC) and the Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation have sponsored the Places in Peril program. The program’s goal is to make communities aware of historic buildings, like the Auburn Train Depot, that have been condemned and neglected.
According to the Alabama Historical Commission website, the AHC and the Alabama Trust for Historical Preservation choose each year’s list based on the importance of the site, urgency and other various factors.
The rustic, brown-colored brick building located at 120 Mitcham Ave. easily goes unnoticed. The wooden platform is rotting and structurally unstable with various holes, missing boards, and chipped and peeling paint. Most of the wrought-iron décor is still intact, and the surrounding landscape is in disrepair. On the east side of the building, there is a plaque commemorating Jefferson Davis’ review of the Auburn Guard, made while on his way to his inauguration in 1861.
The building has been vacant since 2003 and has many maintenance and structural issues, a leaking roof and other contamination hazards.
When in operation, the depot was the central means of transportation for students to and from Auburn University. The depot’s last passenger ticket was sold in 1970. Designed by Ralph Dudley, a former Auburn architecture student, the Mitcham Avenue building is important to students like Jessica Brookshire today.
“It’s a really sad thing to watch a piece of Auburn history be forgotten and just left to crumble,” Brookshire said. “Not a lot of colleges can say that they still have historical buildings like the depot in their areas. It’s something that gives Auburn character.”
City Council member Tom Worden referred to the building as lovely but ancient.
“Any time we can save a piece of history we should do so,” Worden said.
David Schneider, executive director of the Alabama Trust of Historic Preservation, said that based off of his 30-year career in historic preservation he believes the Auburn Train Depot is an excellent candidate for rehabilitation.
“It has a lot to tell about the history of Auburn,” Schneider said. “There aren’t many train stations left in Alabama. They are getting fewer and farther in between.”
Currently, the property owner is listed as MRT LLC, a company based out of Montgomery, according to the city of Auburn. When contacted, the Russell Petroleum Corporation said that they maintain ownership of the gas station next door to the depot, but were unsure whether they owned the Auburn Train Depot property as well.
“We’ve tried to negotiate with the owners, but it’s just too expensive,” Worden said.
The property value and asking price for the depot is $1.2 million. When Moore Realty was contacted, they said that at this time there are no potential buyers.