Mt. Pleasant's historic train depot demolished, residents enrage - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

Mt. Pleasant's historic train depot demolished, residents enraged

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MT. PLEASANT (KYTX) -

Construction workers hired by Union Pacific took local leaders and residents by surprise Wednesday when they started the demolition of a nearly 100-year-old train depot that had been vacant since 2005.

A city employee saw an excavator in front of the old depot Wednesday and grabbed his phone.

"And he was in a panic," Pam Hill said. "He was standing in front of the bulldozer and he was saying 'I need help!'"

Hill, who's with the Titus County Historical Preservation Society, raced to the train tracks along with others.

Union Pacific agreed to let them take a few historically valuable items. Finding little, they settled for a sign identifying the city and the depot's front door.

"The door was probably more symbolic than anything else," Titus County Historical Commission Chairman Steve Austin said. "We're closing the door on one passage of our history and embarking on a new decade."

Despite the last minute pleas, the building was demolished.

"I'm mad," Diana Kennedy said. "I'm mad because we don't have a say."

Kennedy grew up riding the trains that stopped at the depot.

"My aunt and uncle came up here and rode the train with me. I was about six," Kennedy said. "And I was always so proud of getting to be on the very last passenger train that came through Mt. Pleasant."

"We thought they were going to give us a heads up before they did anything further with it and there was a bulldozer and a trackhoe out there this morning," City Manager Mike Ahrens said.

Ahrens said ten years of cooperation had essentially turned to dust. The county said it's been even longer.

"16 years [after we told them we'd take the building], all of a sudden they're tearing it down and it's really a crying shame," Precinct 2 Commissioner Mike Fields said.

Union Pacific spokesperson Raquel Espinoza said the building was filled with asbestos, and that in 2010 the city said it was too expensive to bother with. She was unfamiliar with conversations between Union Pacific and the county.

"Since late 2010, we had not heard otherwise from any group that they had received the funding," Espinoza said.

Espinoza said turnover at Union Pacific and within city hall stalled negotiations. She said the depot's demolition had been on a list of projects--and when its time came up no one thought to check in with the city.

"That is why we did not provide the communication that we should have," Espinoza said.

"We would just have liked to have had time to have some further discussions about preserving what we could preserve, or if it could be moved, moving it," Ginger Shaffer with the Titus County Historical Preservation Society said. "Even though it may not seem important [right now], it is important because what we preserve now will go down for the future."

"If people are concerned about their history, you can't wait until the day it's going to be knocked down to do something about it," Austin said.

Ahrens said the city is trying to get a historical zoning overlay in most of the downtown area in order to save other buildings from a similar fate.

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