Former Meadville Farm and Garden

Pictured in front of the former Meadville Farm and Garden building are French Creek Valley Railroad Historical Society officers and board members (front, from left) Denny Mead, Stan Niwa, Carl Timko, Jack Sheets, Bernie Hanmore, Nick Ozorak, John Nagurney, Maryann Martin; (back) John Snyder, Bill McComas and Ed Cronin. Missing from the photo is Ron Stafford.

A familiar Meadville landmark dating from the 19th century has been purchased by a group well suited to preserving it.

The railroad depot that most recently served as the home of Meadville Farm and Garden for nearly 50 years has been purchased by the French Creek Valley Railroad Historical Society. The nonprofit organization devoted to the preservation of railroad history plans to restore the building for use as a railroad museum and community center, according to a press release issued Thursday.

The 1881 building originally served as a railroad passenger depot and freight house and, in addition to being the last train station in Meadville, is the “last one standing of that nature around here,” according to Bernie Hanmore, the society’s president.

“All of them were torn down or moved maybe,” Hanmore said in announcing the group’s purchase of the building Thursday. “It’s the last one where it was originally at.”

A schedule for the restoration of what will be known as the Meadville Railroad Depot is not yet available, Hanmore said, but within the next month the group plans to hold a community meeting to present its plans to the public.

“That way we can get everyone on board as well,” he said. “It’s going to be great.”

The depot property at 136 Mead Ave. was purchased for $25,000 on Dec. 20, according to a confirmation order from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Along with the Historical Society, the order lists Northwestern Pennsylvania Railroad and Tooling Heritage Center as a purchaser. The center is the nonprofit responsible for restoring the 1910 Cambridge Springs trolley station that is now serving as a community center.

While the Heritage Center would be involved in the restoration of the depot, the Historical Society is the sole owner, Hanmore said.

“They’re going to help us. They did a beautiful job on the trolley station,” he said before adding, “the deeds were changed — they signed off on it and we took it over.”

The purchase marks the realization of a goal the society has had since being formed in 2004, according to Hanmore.

“We got lucky,” he said of the building’s availability.

Meadville Farm and Garden closed its doors in February 2018 along with associated feed store locations in Albion, Waterford and Titusville. The stores were owned by Mattocks Five Inc., which was founded in 1969 by the Mattocks family.

Mattocks Five entered bankruptcy following the closures. The bankruptcy estate received $18,605.11 on Jan. 16 from the sale of the depot building, according to court documents. The bulk of the rest of the proceeds — $4,705.45 — went to pay delinquent 2018 taxes.

The purchase of the depot and plans for its restoration continue what has been quite a roll for the Historical Society. In May the group completed a three-year effort to move its 1945 Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad snow plow to Pomona Park, where it joined the rest of the the society’s rolling stock on display about a half-mile south of the depot location. In the fall, the society launched the Meadville Model Railroad Club after-school youth program. At the end of the year, the annual holiday model train display returned to downtown Meadville.

Society members are excited about their latest acquisition, according to Hanmore.

“There’s quite a history behind it,” he said.

And quite a future, if the French Creek Valley Railroad Historical Society has its way.

Mike Crowley can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at mcrowley@meadvilletribune.com.

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