Restoring history
Publication Salisbury Post
Date January 15, 2008
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N.C. Transportation Museum to get more than $2 million for restoration project By Steve Huffman

Salisbury Post

SPENCER -- Officials with the N.C. Transportation Museum have been hoping for some time to return the faci

N.C. Transportation Museum to get more than $2 million for restoration project By Steve Huffman

Salisbury Post

SPENCER -- Officials with the N.C. Transportation Museum have been hoping for some time to return the facility's power house to its former glory.

On Monday, those hopes got a huge shot in the arm.

The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources announced Monday the receipt of $2.16 million from the General Assembly for the power house's restoration.

It's all part of an important phase in the museum's back shop restoration.

"We're very, very excited," said Misty Ebel, a museum spokeswoman.

Plans, Ebel said, are for the power house to house air conditioning and heating units for the back shop, which is located next door.

She said the power house at one time provided electricity for all the buildings at the site, which was once Southern Railway's primary repair yard.

The mammoth generators in the power house will be cosmetically restored and the facility opened for visitors. Exhibit areas will let guests get a firsthand look at the building as it existed during its glory years.

The money that the General Assembly announced Monday will go toward putting a new roof on the power house and reworking the roof's steel supports.

Museum officials said it's impossible to say exactly how far the funding will stretch, but they hope it goes far toward completing the lion's share of the restoration work to the power house.

"Restoration of the power house will provide the public insight into the industrial heritage that made the central part of North Carolina so important to the state's economic growth," said Elizabeth Smith, the museum's executive director. "I am pleased to see the General Assembly providing the funds to move forward with this project.

Work began on the power house in 2006 with hazardous material abatement and removal of the collapsing roof.

For about a year, the building has stood without a roof.

The new funding will complete much of the renovations, including replacing the roof, supports to meet seismic requirements, new doors and windows, and masonry repairs.

"The Division of State Historic Sites and Properties is delighted to have these funds for the N.C. Transportation Museum," said Keith Hardison, division director of Historic Sites and Properties. "It will allow us to complete the preservation and restoration of the power house, which was the energy center for the historic railroad complex and a key component of the back shop transportation exhibition and education center."

Completing the power house -- a project that is expected to take between 18 and 24 months -- will move the back shop complex restoration into its final phase: interior construction in the back shop followed by exhibit installation.

Ebel said that largely because of the state of disrepair into which the power house has fallen, many visitors to the museum overlook the structure, unaware of its historical significance.

She said the power house is one of only a handful of buildings of its type that remain.

"There aren't many like this left in the country," Ebel said. "It has a very interesting history."

She said the work that began on the power house in 2006 is a start, but said much remains to be done.

"It looks better than it did, but it's still pretty dilapidated," Ebel said.

Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or shuffman@salisburypost.com.