Building Description Illinois Central Railroad Depot, Ullin Illinois
The current Illinois Central Railroad (ICRR) Depot, located in the center of Ullin, Illinois, was built in 1897. This is the third ICRR Depot built in Ullin. The first depot appears (sketched) on a Pulaski County platt of Ullin recorded on August 28, 1857. The 1855 ICRR Financial Statement indicates both passenger and freight sales in Ullin beginning in February of that year. This indicates both a depot and freight house (two different structures) were there as early as 1855. The first depot depicted in the Pulaski County records of 1857 reveals it was located about seventy-five feet south of the current depot (built in 1897). There are no photographs of this depot. A record found with the Illinois Central Historical Society in Paxton, Illinois dated November 5th, 1915 makes reference to another Illinois Central Passenger and Freight Depot in Ullin built about 1863 (second depot). It appears this depot replaced the one, which was present in 1855. The document states the 1863 depot measured 24' X 100' feet. The location is not noted, but it is assumed it was in the same location. The current depot (third depot) is 24' X 60' feet. It was built in 1897.
Another passenger depot belonging to the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad (C&EI RR) was built about 1900, one mile east of the ICRR Depot. Transportation was provided between the two depots allowing passengers to make connecting trains to other destinations. The C&EI Depot was razed in the 1940's. Only one photo has been found of this depot. Today's ICRR Depot is located between Central Avenue (formerly East Oak Street) and the Illinois Central Railroad main line, which parallel each other north and south. Ullin Avenue intersects Central Avenue directly in front of the depot on the east side. The depot is located one block west of U. S. Highway 51 (originally Illinois Route 2). The east side of the depot faces the business district of Ullin. Directly across Central Avenue, about 100' feet east of the depot, is the Ullin Civic Club Building (organization formed in 1956). This old building has housed many Ullin businesses through the years and may be as old or older that the depot itself. This building housed a government funded senior citizen program known as "Smiles IT" from February 1974 until November 1998. This organization prepared meals for senior citizens. The building is now used on weekends as a church and public meeting place. The Ullin Post office, a red brick structure, built in 1962 (which replaced one built in 1911), is located about 300' feet southeast of the depot. Reagan's Supermarket, a family owned business founded by C. V. Reagan in 1932, is located about one half block east of the depot. It is a small but very busy community grocery store. On the east side of Reagan's is Cache River Chevrolet, which in 1997 purchased Dickerson's Chevrolet (established in 1956). The Cache River Chevrolet is the largest auto dealer in extreme Southern Illinois.
The depot's size and design was similar to many other wooden passenger and freight stations built during the end of the 1800's by the Illinois Central Railroad. Generally, these were second and third generation depots, replacing some of the depot and freight structures built when the railroad was created in 1850. Most of these new stations were rectangular in design with a square bay window on the railroad side. They were end gabled with wooden balloon framing. The Ullin Depot was built with thick native hardwood framing timbers contributing to the reason it has withstood the test of time. Since the Ullin area was blessed with so much timber, it is assumed most of the lumber used in the framing of the depot came from near by forests since the Bell Saw Mill was in operation in Ullin during this time. The sills and girders that form the foundation of the depot are 10" X 10" creosote timbers. Wooden posts supported the foundation. The floor joists are 3" X 10" placed on 18" inch centers. The wall studs are a full 2" X 4" placed on 24" inch centers. All of the trusses are a full 2" X 6" placed on 24" centers. The trusses are constructed with an inverted V support with a vertical support through the middle of the V. The roofline is amazingly straight after all these years. The roof decking is plank lumber measuring 1" inch thick by various widths and is in excellent condition.
The Ullin Depot is partitioned in a manner that allowed a large comfortable passenger/waiting area on the south side, a station master and ticket office in the middle and then a large freight area on the north side. Two large wooden sliding doors on both the rail and the roadside of the depot allowed easy loading and unloading of freight. Most of the freight was sent and received by local farmers. These included fruits, vegetables, live produce and farming hardware ordered mostly from Chicago.
The original cabinets still line the walls of the ticket office.
The only changes in the depot since it was constructed are mostly cosmetic. Actually, it is amazingly preserved from the original design. Plumbing was never added inside the depot and only basic electrical needs were satisfied. Examination of old photographs dated about 1905 reveal the siding has been changed. Old photographs reveal a mix of both vertical and horizontal wood siding. This mix highlighted the depot's windows and doors. It also highlighted the gable ends of the depot. The wood siding was replaced in about 1947, according to Charles F. Werner of the Illinois Central Railroad Historical Society. Werner stated he moved from Paxton to Kankakee, Illinois in 1947. He said by that time he recalls all ICRR Depots between those two cities had been converted to Transite siding. It is believed the Ullin Depot was converted by this date since the ICRR generally made changes of this nature down the line. The new design included horizontal wood siding from the foundation up to the bottom of the windows. From the bottom of the window to the eaves, the exterior was covered with a product at that time called cementatious board. It was sold under the name Transite. This particular product was used on numerous buildings during these years and is still manufactured today. The new color scheme was gray at the bottom and gray wood framing around the windows, doors and wooden soffits and eaves. The color of the Transite siding was an off white color which created a two-tone appearance that the depot still sports today. A report filed on November 5th, 1915 reflects the gable roof as slate (a slate roofing voucher was filed by Knisely & Yeldham on January 11, 1898), but it has been three-tab asphalt shingle for as long as anyone remembers. Although now weathered, this is the way it has remained.
Also built on the site in 1897 was a coalhouse measuring 10' X 12' feet and a two door wooden double water closet (outside toilet) measuring 5' X 9' feet. Both were located on the north side of the depot. Two wooden mail cranes were also constructed on the site in 1897. All four of these structures are now gone.
The Ullin ICRR Depot was a very active freight and passenger depot until about 1970. Many technological factors brought about a transition in the rail freight and passenger industry. With exception of the larger cities, almost all of the smaller depots were abandoned. Ullin was no exception to this trend.
The east elevation is what is normally thought of as the front of the depot. One double-hung window is located on the south end of the passenger/waiting room. The window, like all the rest is missing the glass and most of the millwork. Prior to being attacked by vandals, the windows possessed twelve individual glass panes. Most of the window frames are still in place. Some decorative designs on the frame tails are still visible. Located near the middle of the east elevation is the door into the station master/ticket office. The door, a five panel wooden door, appears in good shape and may be restored. A wooden exterior screen door has been saved as well. Eight-pane double-hung windows are found on each side of the door. These two windows allow a view of Ullin's business district. A four-pane transom is located above the door. Near the north corner of the east elevation is a large single, four-panel wooden sliding freight door. An identical freight door is located on the west side of the depot in the same place. Both doors are in great shape and may be restored. A six-pane transom once allowed in daylight above the each of the sliding doors. Some of the millwork around these windows still exists. The sliding doors allowed easy access to freight inside the freight area of the depot. The metal slide mechanisms are rusty, but they still allow the doors to move.
The south elevation of the depot has two of the large double-hung wooden windows inside the passenger/waiting room. A few pieces of the wooden siding are missing and need replaced. The name "Ullin" still bears witness to all passing trains. The south gable is still blackened because of the fire on Labor Day 1979.
The north elevation is a duplication of the south elevation, except no windows are located here.
The west elevation is the business side of the depot. This is the railroad side of the depot. The door into the passenger/waiting room is found near the south corner. This was the public entrance. Entry is gained via a five-panel wooden door, which matches the door on the east side of the depot. This door also appears salvageable. A window into the passenger room is located just north of the door. Located at almost center of the building is the square sided bay window, which protrudes about three and one half feet toward the railroad from inside the stationmaster's office. This allowed viewing in three directions from inside the office where the telegraph was located. A pair of twelve-pane glass windows are in the west wall of the bay window. Smaller eight-pane windows were located on both the north and south walls of the bay window. A gabled roof covers the square bay window. Toward the north side of the west elevation is the duplicate of the sliding door found on the east elevation.
The brick chimney rises above the middle of the roof from the north side of the passenger/waiting room.
The interior of the passenger/waiting room on the south side of the depot is in remarkable condition. An ICRR document dated November 5, 1915 indicates a M. Dencer who was paid by a voucher dated January 28, 1898 did the millwork on the depot. The document does not indicate what Dencer was paid for his services. The floor is currently yellow pine 1" X 6" inch tongue and groove flooring although in 1915 all floors were noted as being maple. The maple wood floor may be under the pine floor. The walls and ceiling are still original. The walls are all vertical tongue and groove 1" X 3" car siding (1/4" bead on 1 1/2" center). A picture molding is around the perimeter of the room at 12' feet high. A crown molding covers the seam of the wall where it meets the 14' foot high ceiling. The ceiling is also car siding. It too is in good condition. The brick chimney is wood covered. The clean out and stovepipe hole are still exposed. The ticket office window, located on the north side of the passenger waiting room, is still in place. A loose molding at the top of the window was labeled "TICKETS". It was removed prior to the last move and stored until it can be reattached.
A wooden six-panel door located on the north side of the room in the west corner separates the passenger/waiting room from the station master and ticket office. The type of construction found in the passenger/waiting room can also be found in the station master and ticket office. The wood is in relatively good condition. Several original cabinets with raised panel doors and tariff cases line the north walls and most are still in good condition.
The door that separates the freight area to the north from the station master and ticket office is missing. The freight room is a large spacious area. The ceiling is open rafters. Wood boards have been placed horizontally up to nine feet high around the perimeter of the room. Some of the boards measure 15 1/2" inches wide. Some graffiti has been found on the walls of the freight room. One name, "Monk Hartwill June 2, 1916" is visible on the east wall. The initials "R. W. G. 1910" are found on the south wall. One stationmaster from years ago was Alonzo Dale. One graffiti states "long legs Dale" in reference to his thin tall stature. The sliding doors are found along both the east and west walls. A small coal bin measuring 6 X 9 feet is located on the southwest corner of the freight room. Currently, the freight room contains a few items left behind when the grain mill used it. The flooring is made of 2" inch thick wood.