Those of us who were disappointed when the Portland Train Depot was torn down in 1972 are delighted to learn that the Depot will again be seen on Main Street Portland and in more ways than one, big and small.
We have watched with great interest the images local artist Manuel Fuentes has placed in the downtown area. The colorful butterflies, flowers, and strawberries he painted in the alley way between the 1909 Building and the Edward Jones Office have been an interesting picture destination for many since its completion.
It seems that local businessman Derrick Miller was so impressed with Manuel's talent that he asked him to add some special images to his Exit Realty Office Building. It was exciting to be sitting at the 109 and Market Street stoplight and catch the first glimpse of the Depot on the side of his building.
Manuel went to great lengths to capture the essence of the former Depot with its mail bag pole, the whittlers bench and the men swapping knives passing the “news of the day.”
Of course, the rest of the mural also captures more of the “heart' of Portland with the steam engine passing through and the water tank that was in the center of the south parking lot. Everyone needs to make the effort to stop by and admire Manuel’s work and let Derrick Miller know how much it is appreciated.
That is not the only Depot that has recently made an appearance on Main Street. Portland native Allen Haynes has completed a small model of the former Depot and has placed it on display at the Richland Building. He added it to the model of early Richland/Portland Main Street that he crafted several years ago which was already on display in the building lobby.
Allen is quick to report that the depot scale is larger compared to the other buildings, but we believe it certainly gives you a feel for what the building was like. The Historical Society is very appreciative of Allen’s efforts to preserve Portland's history.
The Train and the Depot were especially important to the beginning and growth of Portland. The first Depot built for the L & N Railroad in 1859 on land donated by Thomas Buntin was possibly the first building in the area that became Main Street (called Depot Street at the time.)
That small building was later replaced in about 1895 with a larger one many of us remember. In November of 1972, the L&N Railroad announced the closing of the Portland Agent office after more than 100 years.
The Depot building that sat in the grassy area to the east side of the railroad tracts across from the present Temple Theater was soon dismantled. We are thankful for several good photographs, paintings and now a crafted model to bring back the good memories.
Johnnie Freedle is a member of the Highland Rim Historical Society.