The Rockport Cultural Arts District (RCAD) is working with state and local historical preservation experts and officials on its restoration of the San Antonio – Aransas Pass Railroad Depot. Additionally, state railroad and depot historians are offering their expertise.
In the last month, work has begun on addressing foundation issues, installing piers and leveling, as well as installing a permanent sump pump to keep water from pooling under the Depot. The roof is being replaced, and fascia is being installed. The east wall, damaged by Hurricane Harvey, is also being replaced. Historic photos are being used to clarify original features, including the east porch and decking. Antique doors will connect the main interior room with the porch for an area offering entertainment and historical re-enactments. Exterior, period-appropriate, decorative corbels and siding will be added. An insulation undercoating will be completed, and the exterior painted.
The target completion date for this phase of the project is August 31, although rain has been slowing progress. Extreme care is being taken with restoration efforts, including repurposing the pink lilies that have adorned the Railroad Depot building for decades. RCAD has worked with the Keep Aransas County Beautiful Plant Exchange to save the lilies. The Plant Exchange was a community beautification initiative started by RCAD’s Executive Director Jennifer Day at the History Center for Aransas County in 2015.
Funding for this part of the restoration has been provided, in part, by the Margaret Sue Rust Foundation, H.E.B., the Texas Commission on the Arts, private donors, and the sale of Depot-themed merchandise. Visits and events by the San Antonio Model T Fords and the San Antonio Ragtime Society also helped raise money. Additional funding will need to be raised for more exterior work, as well as for the interior.
ALC Builders, owned by historic restoration contractor Lee Copeland, is leading the remodeling efforts. Copeland has restored many properties in the San Antonio King Williams District, also designated as one of the 48 Texas State Cultural Districts. He has been collaborating with historic preservationist and architect Larry Irsik on key restoration areas only visible in old photographs to ensure that a period restoration is being made.
Day noted, “We are striving to restore the Depot as much as possible to its original condition. And, we’re so encouraged by all the people and institutions, at the state, regional and local level, helping us with this major initiative. We didn’t want the Depot to be lost, as so many of our historical assets have been over the years. The Depot will be more than an historic property, however, as we are planning many lively events for the community, children and families, and the many cultural tourists and heritage travelers who come to the area.”
Local historians Janie White of the Aransas County Historical Society and Pam Stranahan of the History Center have provided historic Sanborn maps, which are also being utilized to assist with accurate restoration information. Local Texas Historical Commission (THC) Commissioner, Monica Burdette, has provided guidance, and Betty Stiles, Chairperson of the Aransas County Historical Commission, has also provided assistance.
Hugh Hemphill, manager of the Texas Transportation Museum in San Antonio for 17 years, has been a strong advocate, sharing guidance and expertise on opening the Railroad Museum in the Depot, once additional funding has been gathered. Local history volunteers, including Maureen Winkelman, are doing research and gathering artifacts and memorabilia for the Museum. Colleagues at the Texas Maritime Museum and Fulton Mansion will also be consulted about exhibits and programs.
The Depot is already being utilized for meetings and events, including a concert by the San Antonio Ragtime Society, meetings of the Downtown Merchants Association and RCAD.
We encourage you to donate to the restoration of this historic Rockport and Coastal Bend landmark at www.rockportculturalartsdistrict.com