Long before there was the mammoth Nicholson Bridge, there was the Nicholson Railroad Station.
Originally, it was the Liggett’s Gap Railroad Station, built in 1849, originally used to house workers building a rail line to Nicholson, and later as a passenger destination.
When the bridge (also known as the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct) was completed in 1915 by the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad, the old station became a drop-off and storage site for freight. As railroad use declined, the station closed and was later sold for local private use.
In 2012, the Nicholson Heritage Association purchased the station with the intention of rehabilitating it as a historic tourism and community center.
On Thursday night, Jan. 23, the Association held a public meeting in St. Patrick’s Church hall to unveil plans to have the station renovations completed to coincide with the Nicholson Bridge’s centennial in 2015.
“We purchased the station for $25,000 with a grant through Endless Mountains Heritage Region,” stated Josh Stull, chair of the Association’s grant writing committee. “We then helped fund a feasibility study of the project. Now it’s going to take a lot of work and effort to reach our goal for 2015.”
Alex Belavitz, president and CEO of Facility Design & Development of Scranton, offered an overview of his company’s plans for the station, which included current photos of the interior spaces to be renovated, as well as artist’s renderings of what the completed project will look like.
“This is the kind of project that really makes me want to get out of bed in the morning,” Belavitz said. “Right now, people come to Nicholson to see the bridge, but pass right by the train station where it all started. We want to change that and make the station a tourist attraction as well.”
Belavitz’s company has been responsible for other historic rehabilitations in the area, such as the Gravity Railroad Depot in Waymart, and the historic Pioneer Dime Bank in Carbondale. It has also worked on several new constructions, such as the recently-completed Pioneer Plaza Hotel in Carbondale.
Crews started what Belavitz called “forensic research” on the Nicholson station last summer.
“We have been getting to know the building,” he explained, “so we know how to plan to preserve it so it will have a useful function, and last for another 150 years.”
Belavitz stressed the importance of offering exhibits at the station with information as well as artifacts that depict the history of the railroad and the community, as well as how the building was used. This would include restoring the attic, where rail workers were boarded in the early days of the railroad.
The total cost of the renovation is estimated at nearly $1.4 million, with the bulk of the budget to be spent on rebuilding the basic skeletal structure, such as flooring, walls, ceilings and roof, and making it handicapped-accessible.
Terri Ooms of The Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development described the goals of the feasibility study.
“We interviewed many people in the community,” she said, “including residents, business owners and historians to find out what their vision, their purpose for the station might be.”
She concluded that the primary purpose for the historic structure would be as a destination- a place visited as a tourist attraction, for educational interest, and for use as a community meeting center.
“The common concern was for the station to be restored true to its original form,” she said. “And it also has to be established as a business to generate funds to maintain the structure and continue its operation.”
Belavitz said construction on the station should begin this year around Labor Day, and be completed.
The Nicholson Heritage Association was established in 1989 as a non-profit organization in anticipation of the 75th anniversary of the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct, and is dedicated to the historical preservation of Nicholson and the region.
Donations are still needed for the station project, and can be mailed to the Association at P.O. Box 496, Nicholson, PA 18446, with more information available at: www.nicholsonstation.org
In addition to the station, the Association meets regularly to discuss efforts that include the Viaduct Valley Way Scenic Byway and the upcoming 100th anniversary celebration of the Nicholson Bridge in 2015. Its next meeting at the First Presbyterian Church in Nicholson is Jan. 29 at 7 p.m.