E-town landmark will fall
E-town landmark will fall BY CHAD UMBLE, Staff Writer
It's the end of the line for Elizabethtown's historic freight station.
Following more than two years of discussions about where the former Railway Express Agency station might be moved so a train station overflow parking lot could be built around it, borough council approved an agreement that puts an end to the wrangling.
But it also will put an end to the station.
At their meeting last week, borough council signed off on an agreement that will have the station demolished.
The approved memorandum, which includes the Federal Transit Administration and the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Officer, is for "demolition with mitigation," Roni Ryan, the borough manager explained.
Ryan said the mitigation would mean "working to do some educational and informational methods to record the history of the freight station. It hasn't been determined how yet."
Ryan said the borough hopes to wrap up the project and finish the new 80-space lot at the end of Wilson Avenue by the end of the year. The station's demolition is included in a $2.4 million bid awarded Thursday to Horst Excavating for construction of the lot.
The project is being paid for with federal and state money.
For local members of the Elizabethtown Historical Society, which had offered several plans to save the station, Thursday's vote came as a disappointment and a surprise.
"We thought we were still negotiating. This is why this is such a shock," Kathleen Forney, president of the historical society, said in a phone call after the meeting when she was told about the decision.
"We wanted to build a museum and an historic site in the community for the kids and pay for it, and they just weren't interested. I just don't get it, Forney said.
Ryan, in explaining the decision, said simply, "It went through the process that it had to go through and that is what was determined."
In their comments during the meeting, several borough council members said they were happy the see the project moving ahead.
The Pennsylvania Railroad constructed the building in 1912 to handle light, high-value freight. The Railway Express Agency operated the station from 1929 to 1972, loading everything from locally manufactured shoes to chocolate on rail cars.
After 1972, the station served as a warehouse until the borough purchased it in the fall of 2010. The original plan was to demolish it so the overflow parking lot could be built for the newly restored Amtrak station. But, after it was determined to be historic by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, moving it was considered.
Initially, the borough had suggested moving the station to a borough-owned property down the rail line along West High Street.
Another idea was to move it farther down the line onto the property of White Oak Mills.
Fran Strouse, vice president of the historical society and a civil engineer, said that his group offered a variety of plans to save the station.
The latest proposal was for the freight station to stay where it is and be turned into a museum. The society would then provide 10 parking spaces elsewhere.
Strouse said the proposals were outlined to the state, federal and borough officials, with an official reply never forthcoming.
Strouse, who also was unaware that borough council would be voting on a plan, said in a phone conversation afterward that he doesn't understand the decision.
"The community is the big loser here because it is going to lose something that is part of history and a special era in railroading," he said.
nBorough council votes to replace freight station with parking lot; historic society upset.