Middlebury's circa 1891 passenger depot on Seymour Street is getting major facelift. The historic structure was purchased by Steve Dupoise, owner of Trackside Depot LLC and County Tire, in August 2009 when the previous owner, an auto parts retailer, relocated to Exchange Street.
"It's a classic structure," said Dupoise, "and we're renovating it to rent as retail and office space."
Dupoise is including renovations to the train station's second-floor tower room which was long closed and off limits to tenants until now. In the days of passenger train service to Middlebury, a station master could look north and south, up and down the tracks, for approaching train traffic.
"It's an ideal pace for a downtown business," Dupoise added. "We're spending a lot of money to return this building to its proud appearance."
Dupoise's new business venture, Trackside Depot, will act as landlord for new business tenants. Currently one tenant, a computer service, occupies a portion of the first floor of the old depot.
Trackside Depot received a state historical tax credit to begin the project and also received federal taxpayer funds for improved "green" energy efficiency and new electrical wiring and heating units.
"If you look at the beautiful 9 over 2 window-pane pattern," said Dupoise, "you can see that this kind of attention to design detail back in the old days meant a lot to the builders. They took pride in what they built."
While built at the close of he 19th century, the depot was moved across the tracks in 1912, just a few weeks after the sinking of the Titanic.
"The station was moved from west to east across the tracks," said Dupoise. "We're not clear on just why that was done."
A detailed history of the depot appears in the classic "Walk Around Middlebury" guidebook available locally.
"There's a lot of railroad history here," Dupoise said.
An architect's rendering of the renovated depot will be released next week; the Eagle will publish the image with an update in an upcoming issue.
As Trackside Depot's contractors were working on replacing wood and foundation segments, news was made public of a possible extension of Amtrak's Ethan Allen Express from Rutland to Burlington with a stop in Middlebury. It is unlikely Amtrak will use the 1891 depot, but rumors about the demise of passenger trains appears to be premature.