LAKESIDE, Ohio - It's been more than 70 years since visitors at Lakeside passed through the train depot on the south end of this Chautauqua community.
Since the last passenger trains stopped in 1930, the long, low-slung building has been a freight depot, housed a newspaper office, and been used for storage. Gradually, the 1887 structure fell into disrepair, and it has been virtually empty for more than 20 years.
But by summer, the historic structure will be restored and bustling with visitors again, this time as a community center.
Bud Cox, executive director of the Lakeside Association, said village leaders envision the depot as a place for conferences, picnics, farmers' markets, and wedding receptions. The building will include a multimedia meeting room, with space for 100 people.
“It will expand our facilities,” Mr. Cox said. “It will give us another year-round meeting room and a site that can be available for groups to use for seminars and activities.”
The association has two large meeting rooms that can be used in the off-season. Both are in the Fountain Inn.
“This almost increases our capacity for winter programming by a third,” he said. “In terms of our summer programming, we have increased the number of seminars. We're just out of space for all the groups that want to meet.”
Work began late last month on the depot. The $400,000 project includes replacing the building's concrete foundation, restoring its wide, low-hanging eaves and siding, and adding period lighting outside.
Inside, the former waiting room, ticket office, and another small room will be restored and reconfigured for modern use, Mr. Cox said. The 115-year-old building will have modern century conveniences, including a kitchenette, air conditioning, and handicapped-accessible restrooms.
The renovation is part of a $3.4 million project to upgrade aging buildings at Lakeside, a gated community established in 1873 on Ottawa County's Marblehead peninsula. Lakeside is one of the nation's few remaining Chautauqua communities, which were formed in the late 19th century as meeting places for the United Methodist Church
The depot's renovation was designed by Cleveland-area architects Bob Gaede and Dale Serne. Mr. Gaede, who described the old depot as “Victorian Gothic,” said it's a significant link to Lakeside's past.
“It represents an era when travel to Lakeside was essentially by either boat or by train, not by car, by road, as it is today,” he said.
During most of Lakeside's first half-century, the Lakeside-Marblehead Railroad was the main way for visitors to reach the Lake Erie resort. The seven-mile railway, running between Marblehead and the eastern shore of the Sandusky Bay in Danbury Township, brought thousands of people from Toledo, Detroit, and Cleveland to Lakeside, Mr. Cox said.
But the construction of the Sandusky Bay Bridge about 1930 and the growing popularity of the automobile led to the end of passenger service. The railroad continued freight service, hauling limestone out of Marblehead, until the mid 1960s, Mr. Cox said.
For awhile after that, the Peninsula News, a Marblehead newspaper, operated out of the depot. About 1980, Lakeside acquired the depot and surrounding land, which had been part of the village before the railroad was built.
Some Lakeside residents installed a new roof on the building in the 1980s, painted the structure, and did other repairs. “There were some really heroic acts of volunteer labor that saved the building,” Mr. Cox said.
With the current restoration, the depot “becomes one of the premier historic buildings on the Marblehead peninsula,” Mr. Cox said. “It's the only building left intact that was a part of the Lakeside-Marblehead Railroad.”41.53918 -82.74517