Building Description Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Depot, Flora Illinois

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Depot is located at the northeast intersection of the former Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (originally the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad) and Illinois Central Railroad lines. The building's front elevation faces southwesterly, and away from Flora's main street, known as North Avenue/Old U.S. Route 50. The depot is an imposing structure in the western section of the downtown area and is surrounded by vacant lots that were once the site of commercial enterprises such as hotels and early automobile garages that have all fallen victim to the wrecking ball. A large gravel parking lot borders the property to the west along State Street, and north to West North Avenue. Near North Avenue, the former Yard Office to the railroad once stood until the 1950s when it was demolished.

To the south the abandoned Illinois Central Railroad line heads south in a large open grassy area that contains a diamond shaped turn around point. The abandoned track continues for about a mile where it ends at the spillway ruins of the old Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Reservoir and Dam. To the south of the depot are a few small vernacular homes that were probably occupied by railroading families in their time. Closer to the southern elevation of the building, the current east/west tracks (now occupied by CSX Transportation) pass along the building's intact brick loading platform that extends completely around the building's front facade to the north (181 feet) and to the east (375 feet). The eastern landscape of the depot property is dominated by a long grass "mall" area that contains the previously mentioned brick loading platform extending to the east until the Elm Street intersection. (Coming from the north, Elm Street dead ends into the current tracks) At the end of the mall area to the east, at the Main Street crossing, is another vacant lot where the railroad demolished the circa 1850s freight house in the 1980s.

Closer to the depot, in the mall area, the remains of the goose neck platform lights that lined the boarding area may still be seen, and adjacent to the building along the east elevation, the brick weigh scales still remain. The rear, or the northeast landscape is bordered by the brick street that curves from Elm Street to West North Avenue behind the depot. A large vacant lot to the rear of the depot, that borders West North Avenue, once contained Flora's first and oldest hotel, the Major House. It was built in 1855 with a large three story addition in 1878, after the original building was destroyed by fire. In the late 1980s, the hotel fell into an unsympathetic owner's hands and was destroyed.

Just to the east of the hotel's site stands the vacant Brooks Chevrolet Garage built in 1922 and significant in its own right. To the north of the vacant Baltimore and Ohio Depot, stands the single story Railway Express Agency Building that is also included in this nomination. Across the street is a modern gas station that replaced another significant hotel called the Midland Trail. This auto garage/forty room hotel structure was built in 1916 while the current depot was under construction, and was another tribute to the railroad's power over economic development growth upon the city. The western view from the depot, across State Street, is dominated by the 1951 concrete block Engine House. This one-story structure contains two bays to service the railroad engines, and was constructed over two of the existing 'pits' of the former Engine House that was destroyed by fire in March of 1951. The current building is one story in height and has been vacant for many years. This structure is not included in the boundary for the nomination. Walking the grounds of this area also reveals the site of the turntable and the filled pits and foundation ruins of massive circa 1902 brick Engine House.

Construction of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Depot began in 1916 and was completed in the fall of 1917, with the earlier depot being razed to make way for the present structure. The depot is an imposing structure for such a small city, but symbolizes the importance of Flora as a railroad center in the early twentieth century, and as a reminder that this building and its owner served as the largest employer to the city of Flora.

The depot was constructed by local contractor Frank S. Nichols in an unusual configuration. The building was constructed in a basic L-shaped formation. However, the portion of the building that forms the "L" isangled to face the southwest to offer a more boomerang appearance than an "L" so that both railroad lines could be viewed at the same time.

Overall, the depot is the blend of several architectural styles. The small square windows along the cornice level of the third floor are representative of the Italian Renaissance, the dominant archway feature below suggests the Romanesque period, while the overall building and its materials offer a Classical Revival style impression. The building contains over 7,500 square feet. The depot is constructed in a Flemish bond reddish brown brick with matching mortar. Although virtually all of the building's Openings are covered with plywood, a great deal of the depot's integrity remains intact. The roof of the structure consists of a slightly-pitched wood deck with a tar coated finish. The foundation is constructed of concrete, and the only chimney is located on the northern wing of the depot (where the former boiler room was once housed). In addition, ashlar limestone belt courses are present on the building and serve as the sills for the windows on every floor. A simple metal cornice is located below the parapet walls of the two-story wings of the depot. A more elaborate metallic cornice with brackets, and brick gabled parapet are present on the three-story center section of the building. Windows throughout the depot are six-over-six, double-hung wood windows except where noted. The windows have soldier brick course arched lintels. Most of the openings have been covered over with plywood to protect the building from vandalism. Most of the windows remain in their frames or are in storage in the building and can be repaired.

The western facade, including the main section facing southwest, offers one of the most impressive views of the building. The facade offers a symmetrical appearance. The north wing has a symmetrical facade of five bays. The cornice area consists of a simple brick parapet that hides a slightly gabled roof. Below the parapet, a smooth metallic cornice projects outward from the building and connects to an exterior down spout system that empties below the brick loading platform surrounding the building. Below the cornice, are five covered window openings. The first story of the western elevation (north wing), contains from north to south, two windows, a door which has been covered by a modern metal shed addition, a window, and a door. The window to the north has been replaced by a modern double-hung window. Both original doors have been removed and replaced with more modern vinyl doors as well. One of these entries is one of two accesses to the upper floor offices in the building. The upper floors of the depot were accessed from two interior staircases with outside entrances. The other entry on the west facade (north wing) enters an office and ticket area that was located in this wing of the building. The aluminum shed addition on this elevation that shelters the interior entrance was added in the early 1970s, after CSX Transportation took possession of the property.

The most impressive feature of the western facade, is the angled three-story section of the depot that connects to the two-story wings of the building. This three-story section is dominated by the massive limestone archway that extends above the first two levels of this section. Eleven distinct horizontal recessed brick bands stretch across the three-story section of the depot. The archway, like the other windows in the building, rest on a limestone belt course about three feet above the foundation. The archway contains five doorways with lower recessed panels and two-over-two windows above. Two-pane transom windows are also present above each of these entries as well. All of the doors and transoms are intact today with the exception of one. This area is where the steel beam construction used to construct this section of the depot is evident too. The beams extend the height of the arch, and were used throughout the three-story section of the building. Multi-paned windows above the entry doors, located in the arch remain stored inside the building awaiting restoration. The three-story section projects slightly to the southwest from the two-story wings of the building. Single windows on the second story are located on the north and east elevations of this section.

The third story of the angled western elevation, is bounded by the continuous limestone belt course that encircles the upper floor, and acts as the sills for the thirteen small, square windows. The windows contain a Beaux Arts inspired pattern of intersecting mullion pieces to a single point in the center of the window. These openings afford excellent natural light for the third floor, and were part of the depot's extensive natural lighting system devised by Nichols. Most of these windows survive in storage on the upper floor today. Between the window openings on the third story, are metal scrolled brackets that support the simple metal cornice projecting from the building. Above the cornice line on the north and east elevations, is a single gabled parapet with a circle brick pattern located in the center. This parapet is capped by ashlar limestone and obscures the slightly pitched roof. An identical gabled parapet was located on the southwestern elevation above the archway, but was partially removed when it became unstable in the 1970s.

The east wing of the depot is virtually a copy of the north wing with a few exceptions. Differences from the north wing include that this wing of the building is longer than the other, and contains additional bays. As opposed to the five-bay facade of the northern wing, there are seven bays located here on the south elevation. Seven wooden window openings are located on the southern elevation of the second story of this wing. The first story contains from west to east, two windows, a door covered with a modern aluminum shed addition, a window, a wooden freight door, and two windows. The wooden freight door accessed the baggage room of the depot.

The east elevation of the east wing is quite simple. It is two stories in height, contains the simple brick parapet capped with limestone and has a metallic cornice projection. Overall it is a three-bay facade, but is unbalanced by the absence of a third window opening to the north on the first story. There is a narrow four-over-four window located in the center on both floors. The second floor center window is flanked by two covered windows.

The rear elevation of the depot, demonstrates the angular composition of the structure. The eastern wing of the rear elevation has a somewhat symmetrical appearance with five window bays on the second story, and four bays on the first story that include from east to west, a door, a wooden freight door with a four-pane transom, and two windows. The window to the north has been replaced by a modern double-hung window in the men's rest room.

The rear elevation of the central three-story section of the depot does not contain a gabled parapet as do the other three elevations. The metal cornice and brackets barely wrap around the rear of the structure. It apparently was not necessary to go to the expense to carry this design treatment to rear of the building, which at one time, was obscured from public view by the old Major House/Starr Hotel (demolished). The third story elevation has five, six-over-six windows. The second story has a bank of four windows. The first story also has a bank of four windows.

The north wing of the rear elevation is symmetrical with two bay openings. The second story has two windows, while the first story has a window to the south and a door to the north. The door and transom leads to the former boiler room, which could be accessed only from this point.

The north elevation of the northern wing of the depot is symmetrical, and is dominated by the towering chimney used for the boiler room. The facade displays three bay openings containing windows on both stories. Two windows on the first story have been replaced with modern double-hung windows that will be replaced with six-over-six windows during the restoration of the depot.

The interior of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Depot is of frame construction overall with a steel skeleton used in the three-story section. The floors throughout are wood with the exception of the waiting room and ticket area on the ground floor which is a red terra cotta tile. Also the baggage room has a concrete floor. The first floor of the depot contains the former waiting room in the center section of the depot, To the east of the waiting area is the telegraph office. A hallway leads east from the waiting room to the baggage room. The baggage room has exposed brick walls. A stair in the northeast corner leads up to the railroad offices on the second story. To the northeast of the waiting room is the former ladies' waiting room and rest room facility, and just down the hall to the east is the men's rest rooms. To the north of the waiting room area is the former ticket office and yardmaster offices. The boiler room is located in the northeast corner of the north wing. The first floor rooms contain original plaster walls that are present throughout the building and some wainscoting. Access to all of the rooms is by wood panel doors, some with overhead transoms. The first floor rest rooms still have the original glazed terra cotta tile floors, white ceramic tile walls, wooden partitioned stalls, and fixtures. The rest room facilities on the second and third floors also retain these same historic features.

The second and third floors of the depot are accessed by two stairways on opposite ends of the building. Each stairway landing makes a ninety degree turn with handrails leading up from their first floor entrances. The second and third floors originally contained the management functions of the railroad division. The center section and the east wing housed the offices of the division physician, division superintendent, division engineer, chief dispatcher, master carpenter, assistant division engineer, and train dispatcher. The north wing provided offices for two train masters and the roadway foreman.

On the third level of the center section was one large office. This was the business office where clerks kept the flow of paperwork moving for the railroad, including payroll and billing, statistics, and tracking of all shipments through the division. The third floor later became the place where railroad social functions were held. Meals and refreshments could be prepared in the company kitchen and there is evidence of a small stage at one end of the room.

The Railway Express Agency Building, located to the north of the depot along West North Avenue, is believed to have been built at the same time as the depot in 1916-1917. The building is a single story rectangular structure measuring 26 feet by 50.5 feet with Flemish bond brick walls of a reddish brown color. A limestone belt course is located approximately one quarter of the way above the concrete foundation, and encircles the building entirely. The roof of the building is flat with a slight pitch, but is completely obstructed in view by the simple ashlar limestone parapet.

The front elevation, or western facade of the building, (from north to south) contains five bay openings, an entry door, window, freight door, window, and freight door. The entry door and metal freight doors interrupt the belt course while the two, six-over-six windows rest upon it. Most of the windows and doors are covered with plywood to protect the building from vandalism. The south freight door slides open as two separate doors on a track system and consist of ribbed metal with an X-pattern on each door panel.

The southern elevation has one bay that contains a simple metal freight door that operates on a rolling track system.

The eastern elevation has three bays. A large metal/wood combination freight door is the dominant feature on this elevation with two wooden covered windows on either side. The window openings rest on the ashlar limestone belt course.

The northern elevation along West North Avenue, is symmetrical in appearance with three window bays. Again, these openings rest on the limestone belt course and have been covered. The wood windows are six-over-six. At the top of the parapet of this elevation is the wooden remains of the sign that once declared this building as the Railway Express Agency for the railroad.

The interior of the Railway Express Agency Building is simple in appearance. A narrow wooden tongue-and-groove ceiling is present throughout the building, as is a concrete floor with a perimeter ditch used in connection with the environmental controls for the office and the depot. In the northern section of the building is a small toilet facility and two small offices that are partitioned from each other and the freight area of the building by the same narrow tongue-and-groove wood found on the ceiling of this structure.