Shawnee County Commissioners voted this week to accept a transfer of ownership of the Great Overland Station from Railroad Heritage, Inc.(RHI), to Shawnee County for the sum of $1. Great Overland Station, a building valued at more than $5 million, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Union Pacific Railroad Passenger Depot. Built in 1927 as the Union Pacific Railroad Station, Great Overland Station now serves as a museum celebrating Topeka’s rich history as well as a special event and meeting venue. The venue will be operated by Shawnee County Parks + Recreation (SCP+R).
“RHI felt that with the planned riverfront park, it was natural for Great Overland Station to be operated by Shawnee County Parks + Recreation,” said Commissioner, Bill Riphahn. “We would like to continue and enhance our business relationships with the NOTO Arts District on Kansas Ave.”
Visitors to the museum can learn about area railroads including the Santa Fe/BNSF, Union Pacific, Rock Island, Missouri Pacific and Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad. They can learn about the history of the site from the Oregon Trail, Pappan’s Ferry crossing, and the birthplace of U.S. Vice President Charles Curtis. The BNSF Plaza includes the Corridor of Flags and All Veterans Memorial honoring our nation’s veterans and active military.
“We’ll take a look at Great Overland Station with a fresh set of eyes,” said Tim Laurent, SCP+R director. “We’ll look at what has worked well in the past as well as exploring new opportunities to serve the community.”
Laurent noted that SCP+R already has a number of wedding reception, event venues and rental facilities, now Great Overland Station will provide yet another venue option.
Railroad Heritage, Inc. has owned, restored and operated Great Overland Station, the All Veterans Memorial/Corridor of Flags/BSNF Plaza, the Railroad Park, parking lots, office/warehouse building, permanent exhibits and artifacts owned by RHI since 1998 and has invested $7 million in capital funding for restoration/preservation of the properties. The Great Overland Station Museum had its grand opening in 2004. Designed by noted architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood, the station has hosted myriad celebrations while showcasing railroad heritage and other significant community history through exhibits, programs and tours.
Bob St. John, chairman of the Board of Trustees of Railroad Heritage, Inc., said, “Railroad Heritage believes that donation of this property provides an ideal opportunity for the County to acquire a historic community asset valued at more than $5 million, and will also enhance the opportunity for the County to develop plans created by the National Park Service for an Oregon Trail themed Riverfront Park.”
Beth Fager of RHI added, “RHI has been pleased to make this investment to enrich our community. This transfer of ownership ensures the continued preservation and operation of Great Overland Station.” She adds that RHI is also gratified to see the Great Overland Station serve as a catalyst to the development of the NOTO Arts District, Topeka’s dynamic core, and the National Park Service Oregon Trail Park plans.
–Lee Hartman | Metro Voice
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