Depot was a treasure

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 19, 2004

The still-burning remains of the Depot Restaurant lit up the Linden sky Wednesday night, nearly a full day after the fire that consumed the historic building began.

“It was an old building, a landmark,” owner Jim Wicks said. “Everyone is going to miss this building.”

The building, in fact, is at least a hundred years old, according to local residents.

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“The railroad came through in 1904, so it was built about that time,” Melanie Hale, a member of the Marengo County Historical Society and resident of Linden, said. “It may have even been earlier than than, like around 1902.”

Gelean Wicks said she had been told by a now deceased Historical Society member, Elizabeth Washburn, that the depot had probably been built around 1900-1902.

“It fits the pattern for other depots that were built around that time,” Wicks said.

The building, as the name suggests, began as a train depot during Linden’s trading heydays.

“I can remember going in to the depot to eat, and the bails of cotton were stacked there,” Linden Police Chief Jeff Laduron said. “They used to ship the cotton by train then.”

Hale said the building was bought by John Duncan sometime in the early- to mid-1970s and moved from its location on Oakland Avenue to the current location on Highway 43 South.

“I don’t remember the exact date, but I know it was in the 70s,” she said. “He remodeled it and opened it as a restaurant.”

The building changed hands several times between the days of Duncan and current owners Jim and Gelean Wicks, but it always remained a restaurant and it always remained the Depot.

“That’s a piece of history there,” Linden Fire Chief James Creel said Tuesday as he watched what remained of the old landmark burn. “This is a big loss for Linden.”

That was the sentiment expressed by nearly everyone who witnessed the destruction of a building that was more than a historical landmark, but was a piece of their daily lives.

“I don’t know what people are going to do,” Gelean Wicks said. “There were a lot of people who ate here every day.

“So many people commented on what a beautiful building it was, all that wood,” she said. “It just had such a warm feeling to it.”

Even through the charred remains, passersby could catch a glimpse of that beauty Wicks spoke of. The white latticework that surrounded the front porch still stood, though dirtied by the soot and ash filling the air and flames rose up from a still standing screened-in side porch.

Much of the back of the building, which contained an apartment for the owners, had been added, but the building still held that special appeal of a historic landmark.

“We’re all just sick that it’s gone,” Hale said.