City officials pledge to address public queries about L&N Train Depot’s future

City officials on Tuesday noted that several other proposed projects could ultimately compete for the funding needed to renovate the historic L&N Train Depot.

After festering for four years, the question of what to do with the historic L&N Train Depot spilled into the Hopkinsville City Council meeting Tuesday night.  

The building has been vacant since a small fire on Jan. 15, 2019, forced the Pennyroyal Arts Council to evacuate the building for good. Since then, city officials have wrestled with sticker shock over cost estimates to save the downtown landmark from ongoing deterioration that threatens its survival. 

L&N train depot in winter
Snow covers the L&N Depot in downtown Hopkinsville on Feb. 20, 2021. (Hoptown Chronicle photo by Jennifer P. Brown)

City Administrative Officer Troy Body, speaking at the council meeting, indirectly acknowledged a recent debate on social media about how to pay for the depot’s restoration. 

“So it’s out there,” Body said. “People are talking about it. And those that are talking about it, they are absolutely right. Something must be done. That building got in the shape it is in because of neglect in the past. … It is on the agenda now. Something must be done. We are looking into it.”

Body confirmed that the latest estimate to save the property exceeds $2 million. 

“We want the public to understand these are decision points. We have to look at those numbers,” he said. 

Competition for funding

Using $2 million for comparison purposes, Body mentioned several other city government needs that could compete with the depot for the funding.

In a handout to city council members, Body listed the following potential city projects and improvements, along with the estimated costs:

Public Works

  • New splash pad downtown — $500,000 (high end of estimate)
  • New baseball field upgrade at Tie Breaker Park — $1 million
  • Wave pool at the water park: $2.5 million
  • Playground equipment for a new inclusive park — $1 million
  • Complete the rail-trail to Tie Breaker Park with access over the bypass — $2 million


  • Replacing all of the city’s cameras with HD cameras — $350,500

Fire Department

  • Pumper truck — $790,500
  • Ladder truck — $1.3 million
  • Main fire state renovation — $1.3 million to $1.7 million

Police Department

  • 40 new police cars, equipped and road-ready — $2 million
  • Police station building repairs — $150,000

In addition, the city is considering the construction of a fifth fire station. Body told Hoptown Chronicle the estimate for a new station is currently a “moving target.” A feasibility study said it could cost up to $19 million, but Body said it also could be less depending on several factors, including location, size and equipment.

Next steps

Body said the $2 million, or more, needed for the depot “is not something we take lightly.”

But advocates for saving the depot are correct about the building’s historical value, he added.

“It is a precious building,” he said. “Everybody has a story to tell about the building. We do care about it. It has been neglected in the past.”

Body outlined the next steps in determining what the city will do.

Fire Chief Steve Futrell will have a structural engineer from Gardner Engineering and Consulting in Owensboro inspect the building on Jan. 24. The same firm recently advised the city on the condition of the Phoenix Building downtown. 

Additional information will be available to the public after the engineer consults with city officials.

“And we will respond to the public,” said Body, adding the mayor’s office wanted residents to know that the problem is not being ignored. 

Local efforts to preserve community history

A small group of residents interested in saving the train depot began discussions with city officials after the fire in 2019. Margaret Macdonald, a retired librarian, moderates a Facebook group, Save Our Hopkinsville L&N Depot!, for supporters. It has 1,000 followers.

In a post she published Monday, Macdonald outlined the efforts of her organization.

After CSX Corp. paid the city $400,000 a few years ago to close four side streets at downtown rail crossings, the depot supporters asked the city to apply all of that money to the cost of repairing the foundation and an outer wall, she wrote. The depot sits on cedar posts, which comprise the foundation.

L&N train depot in hopkinsville

Hopkinsville L & N Train Depot as seen on July 24, 2009. (Photo by J. Stephen ConnCC BY-NC)

The city hired Howard K. Bell Engineering to examine the depot and estimate how much it would cost to stabilize the building, said Body. When that estimate came in at $900,000 to $1 million, the city rejected plans to spend about $130,000 to stabilize the structure. That would have been only a “Band-Aid,” he said. 

Later the city transferred ownership of the depot to the Local Development Corp., one of the downtown development arms of Community and Development Services. 

The LDC hired Bell Engineering to provide a cost estimate for “building stabilization and adaptive re-use” of the property, said Body. 

Macdonald said her group is still waiting to see the engineering report. 

“The depot supporters have waited several months for CDS to release the official estimate from Howard K. Bell,” she wrote. “Depot supporters met with CDS representatives in late November of 2022, at which time they expected an estimate in about 30 days, or about the end of December. That information has not been released.”

Supporters of saving the depot say it is difficult to know how much backing they should seek from the public without a firm number from the engineers. 

“This is not something that can or will be possible to accomplish in a few months or even a year,” Macdonald wrote. “Saving this beautiful building would be a good start in the right direction. It would anchor the east end of Hopkinsville and expand commerce in downtown Hopkinsville. It would preserve community history. It would continue to lend ‘curb appeal’ to our city when people drive into town.”

A landmark to history

The depot was constructed by the Louisville and Nashville Railroad in 1892. 

Hopkinsville L&N Depot in 1969
The L&N Depot in Hopkinsville in 1969. (Photo by John Fuller | Bill Grady Collection, West Kentucky Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society)

For the first half of the 20th century, the depot was a hub of activity in Hopkinsville with a dozen passenger trains passing through the city daily, Christian County Historian William T. Turner previously told Hoptown Chronicle. 

Up until about 1950, most goods sold by local businesses arrived on rail cars. 

“Anything residents ordered from a catalog came on a train, either by freight or in the mail,” Turner said. “All of the mail came on the train. Newspapers, too. Every day the post office sent a truck to the depot. The railroad station was the center of the town. People came just to see who was getting on and who was coming off.”

Turner said he considers the train depot to be one of Hopkinsville’s most important landmarks to history. He is part of the group that’s lobbying the city to restore the building. 

Jennifer P. Brown is co-founder, publisher and editor of Hoptown Chronicle. You can reach her at She spent 30 years as a reporter and editor at the Kentucky New Era. She is a co-chair of the national advisory board to the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, governing board president for the Kentucky Historical Society, and co-founder of the Kentucky Open Government Coalition.