Gala Celebration and Amtrak Equipment Display to Open Restored Hattiesburg Depot

HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Long known as The Hub City, Hattiesburg now has an Intermodal Transportation Facility at 308 Newman Street that will enable passengers on daily Amtrak Crescent trains to enjoy visiting the Pine Belt community of more than 130,000 and to connect with local transit.

In order to celebrate the official opening of the depot this weekend, a black-tie Grand Gala will be held at the station this Friday night and a ribbon-cutting will be staged this Saturday afternoon. Amtrak will display railcars and a locomotive at the station during the gala on Friday night and following the ribbon-cutting at 4:00 p.m. until 8:00 this Saturday evening.

Hattiesburg is served twice daily by the Amtrak Crescent, with afternoon departures of Train 19 to New Orleans at 4:19 p.m. and morning departures of Train 20 to Birmingham, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and New York at 9:47 a.m. Last year, 8616 tickets were sold by Amtrak to or from Hattiesburg, a figure that is sure to increase with the completion of this project.

The first $25,000 of the $10 million renovation and restoration came as seed money from the former Great American Station Foundation, a nationwide effort recently reconstituted by Amtrak.

“Stations are more than just a place to catch a train,” said Alex Kummant, Amtrak President and CEO.

“Many stations have deep historical and cultural roots in their communities. A growing number have started new lives as community centers, intermodal transportation centers, commercial businesses and museums — many while continuing to serve rail passengers.

“Further down the road, we also hope to establish a small matching fund to help other communities get started in the good work of improving their station program,” Kummant added, pointing out the Hattiesburg story will soon be featured on the website sponsored by Amtrak.

“The Hattiesburg Train Depot is the key to understanding the city’s past and is the key component of Hattiesburg’s future,” said Mayor Johnny L. DuPree, Ph.D.

Early in 1998, the City of Hattiesburg began negotiating with officials of the Norfolk Southern Railroad to purchase the Hattiesburg Depot, a 14,000-square foot Italian Renaissance structure built in 1910. The transfer of the depot and surrounding land to the City of Hattiesburg was completed in summer 2000.

One of the larger and more elaborate surviving passenger depots in Mississippi, the building exhibits a high level of architectural sophistication. The depot has been continuously active since its construction, now serving Amtrak and Norfolk Southern rail traffic, and will be the primary transfer point for Hub City Transit.

The depot is located in Newman-Buschman Railroad Historic District, the city’s oldest neighborhood and once the site of Newman Lumber Company. The depot site links Newman-Buschman, a locally designated historic district, with Hub City Historic District – Downtown and Hattiesburg Historic Neighborhood District.

The Hattiesburg depot is considered by some music scholars to be the historic birthplace of rock and roll music. The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll reports Hattiesburg was a recording location of Blind Roosevelt Graves and his brother, Uaroy Graves, who, along with piano player Cooney Vaughn, recorded two songs in 1936 that “featured fully formed rock & roll guitar riffs and a stomping rock & roll beat.” The Graves Brothers and Vaughn – performing as the Mississippi Jook Band – recorded the songs “Barbecue Bust” and “Dangerous Woman,” reportedly at the station.

In addition to local matching funds, other monies for the project came through the State of Mississippi/Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Transit Administration, along with other federal funds through Mississippi’s Congressional delegation.