ETSU documents historic train depots

Published 10:53 am Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Call it the 19th century version of Facebook.
Though difficult for today’s readers to recognize, train depots were once hubs of information, a place of near constant hustle and bustle.  
Flash back more than a century ago, and East Tennessee was full of them, some designed in a Gothic style that featured low roofs and usually only enough space to conduct basic operations, with others much more elaborate in architectural style.  
A new digital exhibit, cataloged by East Tennessee State University’s Archives of Appalachia, highlights many of them. 
“One of the purposes behind this exhibit is to emphasize the importance of maintaining existing structures, as well as their historical significance to East Tennessee,” said ETSU’s Sandy Laws, who curated the virtual exhibit. “While many depots have disappeared, or transformed into other modes of commerce, East Tennessee is fortunate to have a few readily recognizable depot structures still in existence.” 
The exhibit features dozens of historical photos, from depots in historic Jonesborough to smaller communities like Mohawk in western Greene County and Bulls Gap in Hawkins County. Accompanying each of the photos is some historical narrative, as well as commentary from Laws, who traveled to many of the locations to take photographs.  
Part of the Center of Excellence for Appalachian Studies and Services at ETSU, the archive is home to scores of documents, many that are unique to the area. Personal letters, images and even sounds note what life was like generations ago in the Appalachian Highlands.  
The public is welcome to peruse digital collections.

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