Once the hub of economic activity for the city, Ashland’s old railroad depot is finding a new purpose as a community center and place for people to gather.
“We’re getting a lot of requests for it now,” said City of Ashland Finance Director Tony Grubb, who explained the depot’s renovation as the Ashland Transportation Center essentially began two years ago with efforts including installation of heating and air conditioning. Initial plans for the space included a farmer’s market, Grubb said, although commerce restrictions applied to the structure prevented that use, “so we decided to use it more like a recreation room, for things like weddings or business meetings.”
Grubb said federal funds have been used for the depot renovation, which will be completed with the installation of interior details including antique-style fans, application of a stain on the floor and display of an old photo depicting a horse-drawn wagon picking up goods from the train station back when the depot was the place where all deliveries to Ashland began. Audio and video equipment, as well as “what the health department calls a warming kitchen” with a sink, refrigerator and food warmer will also be installed.
Grubb said the revitalized depot has already been booked for most days in December, primarily meeting the demand for space to host Christmas parties, but also serving as a conference space for a group conducting HUD Section-8 training there during daylight hours. While an exact number is subject to debate, Grubb said the Ashland Transportation Center can easily accommodate roughly 200. Smaller groups who may even want a more efficient space have chosen to rent only the lobby of the center, he added.
The city’s finance director said the Ashland Transportation Center has an affordable rental rate, going for $50 per hour for most functions or $25 per hour if the event is hosted by a local non-profit organization.
Artists Melanie Osborne and Denise Spaulding said they have enjoyed their assignment at the old depot, transforming a big, blank white wall into a faux-brick surface for a much-improved interior appearance.
“I think this will be a great space, especially for the non-profits. I mean, they would be able to have a four-hour Christmas party here for $100,” Osborne said.
Spaulding said the facility’s history makes it an excellent place to be part of Ashland’s future.
“It will generate some excitement in the community and I think it is a resource very few people know about,” Spaulding said.
For more information or to make reservations, call Michele Rickman at (606) 327-2012.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.