Historic Rural Retreat Depot Back on Track

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Depot Hosting Weekly Farmers' Market Beginning July 3

For years, the Rural Retreat Depot sat unattended, its deterioration visible to anyone who happened to drive through this Southwest Virginia Town. Photography buffs will recognize that in its prime the Rural Retreat Depot was the subject of several of the most famous of O. Winston Link’s photographs, when in 1957, he documented the end of steam railroading in America. The transition from steam to diesel locomotive power was soon followed by the end of commercial passenger service by the Norfolk and Western Railroad, resulting in the closure of the Depot. The building was rented out as a warehouse for farm supplies and for 40 years slowly rotted away—until now.

In 2011, local citizens formed the Rural Retreat Depot Foundation, dedicated to ‘acquire, restore and manage’ the Rural Retreat Depot for the benefit of the community. Today, the Foundation’s efforts are beginning to bear fruit, with the announcement of the Farmers’ Market at the Depot. Beginning on July 3 and continuing every Wednesday through the summer, the Farmers’ Market will operate from 2 to 6 PM and is free to vendors. Vendors will operate both outside and inside the Depot, a demonstration of the significant progress being made by the Depot Foundation. To get to this point, the group had to raise $90,000 to purchase the depot building. Next, member volunteers spent many hours cleaning out decades of dust and debris that had accumulated inside, followed by the addition of lighting, ramps and handrails necessary for an occupancy permit. The Foundation also raised enough money to have the exterior of the building cleaned and primed, halting the deterioration and creating a much more attractive town center for Rural Retreat. For more information on the Farmers’ Market, please visit http://www.theruralretreatdepot.com/farmersmkt.html.

To fund these efforts the Foundation depends upon donations from individuals and businesses, and it has received donations from as far away as London. Various donor incentives are used to entice giving, ranging from naming opportunities to thank-you gifts including T-shirts, art prints, music CDs, and HO-gauge models of the depot. Fund raising events have included a beef raffle and recently the local American Legion post donated Bingo proceeds. The Foundation is currently seeking donations of items for an upcoming benefit auction scheduled for July 27. Cash donations are leveraged by local contractors and artisans who donate their labor. While individual donations provide for notable forward progress, they do not generate the larger amounts needed to tackle major repair and restoration projects. For these larger projects, the Foundation is seeking various grants from private and government entities, many of which match local donations. Thanks to our generous donors the Rural Retreat Depot is back in operation as a community resource.

The Rural Retreat Depot Foundation is a 501(c) (3) public charity that is seeking tax deductible donations and support to restore the historic Rural Retreat Depot, made famous by O. Winston Link photographs. Private contributions and a variety of grants are being sought for the restoration, complementing the commitment of local contractors and artisans to donate their services. To make a donation please visit the Foundation website at http://www.theruralretreatdepot.com, or send your check to The Rural Retreat Depot Foundation, P.O. Box 843, Rural Retreat, VA 24368. Follow our progress on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/theruralretreatdepot and Twitter @SaveRRDepot.

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Frank Akers
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