Wabash Railroad Depot, New Haven Indiana
Long before permanent settlement by Europeans and Euro-Americans, Native Americans understood the importance of the New Haven area in terms of its transportation links. The Maumee-Wabash was an important route for canoe trade or, the transportation of warriors or soldiers. A short portage of five miles or so connected travelers from the eastern Great Lakes bordering Ohio and Canada to the Wabash River, and on to the Ohio River. Euro-American Fort Wayne supplanted the Native American villages in 1794, allowing eventual American control over trade and travel on the Wabash River. The promise of river trade was enough to lure settlers to plat both Fort Wayne and New Haven. Pioneer John Gundy had arrived in the New Haven area in 1820; he and Margaret Gundy, his wife, filed the plat for New Haven with the Fort Wayne land office in 1826.
What river trade failed to consistently offer in terms of commerce, the canal more than compensated for. The Wabash and Erie Canal would eventually connect Allen County both to the rich farms of the Wabash Valley, and to goods from back east. In 1832, canal planners began the waterway in Fort Wayne, but carried it first to the south toward Huntington, Logansport, Lafayette, and beyond. Workers did not extend the canal to New Haven until 1839, and Toledo, Ohio was finally reached in 1842. From the 1830s to just after the Civil War, New Haven was a canal town. New Haven officially incorporated as a town in 1866. The town had mills, cabinet makers, wagon makers, blacksmiths, several grocers, pharmacies, and a number of other stores. A chair factory and other lumber-related businesses came later. All would benefit and depend on rail service for goods, customers, and shipping by this time.
The Wabash Railroad built a repair shop just west of New Haven. But beyond this, the railroads not only served business and industry, but they also connected the town's citizens to the outside world. The Wabash Depot is the sole historic property most closely associated with New Haven's railroad years. The Wabash Railroad Depot in New Haven, Indiana, is the only stick-style depot on the Wabash line that has survived in Indiana. It is the only combination depot on the Wabash's Toledo-St. Louis Line (now Norfolk and Southern) that has survived. Only two other combination depots existed as of 1986 on the Toledo-Chicago Line (partially abandoned). The one at Wakarusa in Elkhart County has been restored, but it is missing its Sitting Room, and has been moved from its original location. The other at North Liberty in St. Joseph County has been torn down.
Allen County has several remaining depots, nearly all located in Fort Wayne. The list for Fort Wayne includes an 1880s LS&MS Depot on Cass Street; a Pennsylvania RR Freight House,1929; a 1914 Arts and Crafts passenger depot for the Pennsylvania RR located downtown; an early twentieth-century LM&MS Freight house; a Wabash RR Freight Depot of similar vintage; a 1955 Nickel Plate depot and elevated tracks; an interurban office and freight house on Pearl Street from the early 1900s; and a Ft. Wayne and Findley RR Depot from the 1880s that has been moved twice. Some have been restored, while most of the freight depots are currently vacant, but none are combination depots. New Haven is the only other location in Allen County that still has its depot standing in its original location. In Allen County, Grabill, Huntertown, and Monroeville have all lost their small town combination depots within the past 25 years. A Toledo, St. Louis, & Kansas City Depot also stands just outside of New Haven, however, this depot was originally from Craigsville in Wells County, Indiana.
The depot has played an important role in the development of New Haven. The railroad replaced the canal upon which New Haven got its start, and connected New Haven with points throughout the United States. The coming of the railroad into New Haven and completion of the Depot in the 1890s marked a new beginning for New Haven. Instead of a town that would die with the canal, it thrived with the railroad. The railroad provided a method of sending the farmer's produce and manufacturer's goods to market. The depot saw many Eastern Allen County men and women depart in the service of their country from the time of the Spanish-American War through the Korean War. The Wabash Depot played an important part in the community until its closure in 1964.
The Wabash Depot is a Wabash standard combination depot built circa 1890. The Wabash Railroad used a standard plan for its early combination depots. The Sitting Room is on the west end of the building, the Freight/Baggage Room is on the east end, and the Agents Office is in the center of the Depot. It sets on a lot of less than an acre facing the Norfolk & Southern railroad line (formerly the Wabash), which runs east-west. There were tracks that ran past the north and south sides of the depot. However, the lines to the north have been removed, as well as the line that served the depot on the south side. State St. borders the property on its eastern edge. The depot is a wood-framed building, approximately 50' x 20', with vertical board and batten siding panels, alternating with diagonal accents. The depot has a gabled roof, with a 12' nominal eave height and approximately a 7:12 roof pitch. There is a cross gable located above the operator's (ticket agent) rectangular bay window. The roof has wide overhangs, which served to protect railway passengers from the elements during their wait. Decorative woodwork under the gables is found on an otherwise simple frame building.
The floor framing consists of 2 x 12 wood joists spaced at about 16" on center and spanning about 20 feet in the north-south direction. It appears the joists bear on a perimeter wood beam that bears directly on the soil. The perimeter beam is rotted and deteriorated in the locations examined. It was not determined if the joists were supported at the center or how much space originally existed below the bottom of the joists. There appears to be very little if any space currently. Some of the joists that are visible have significant deterioration. There is a concrete pit (about 5' deep) below the restroom and storage area, which provides access to the sanitary sewer and water lines. The pit is capped with a 4 1/2" slab with a steel access plate located in the restroom. This pit was likely added when water and sanitary sewer services became available to the building. The floor elevation varies significantly and the exterior walls have all settled with the southeast corner settlement greater than 8". The large amount of differential would support the assumption that very little if any foundation exists along the perimeter except at the brick chimney and concrete pit. The settlement is the result of insufficient foundation and foundation depth, the deterioration of the joists and unsatisfactory soil-bearing capacity. The settlement is reflected through the structure in the walls and roof framing as many of the openings and walls are no longer square or plumb.
The exterior walls are wood-framed with rough sawn 2 x 4 studs at approximately 28' c/c. The building is visibly out of square due to the differential settlement and rotting wood. Doors and windows are consequently out of square. The upper ends of the wood studs that are visible appear to be in good condition. It is anticipated that some deterioration exists at the base sole plate that will require repair or replacement. The exterior board and batten siding, trim, and paint are in fair condition with the lower portion below the horizontal trim in very poor condition, as a result of moving foundations, rotting and animal infestation. The exterior ornamentation (braces and detailing) are Stick / Queen Anne style and are in need of paint. Each eaves brace is in the form of a kingpost truss with chamfered surfaces and lamb's tongue stops. There are two braces at each corner of the building and a kingpost gable truss with diagonal struts at each gable. The protruding central ticket window gable has a unique decorative truss that is less common among depots of its time. The truss is "broken" or open at the bottom chord, with queen posts flanking a wooden arch. All surfaces are chamfered.
The depot has door and window openings as follows: the south elevation, from east to west, has a baggage door, the operator's bay with two windows, a transomed personnel door, and a window. The north elevation has, from east to west, a transomed double baggage door, window, small high-set square window, transomed personnel door, then window. The east gable end has two windows, the west end, a narrow horizontal window.
The exterior main doors are primarily four-panel, 3'-0" x 6'-10" painted wooden doors. Most of the doors and frames are warped and out of square due to moisture penetration and building movement over time. The paint is in poor shape and some of the door edges are weathering and rotting. All exterior doors have transoms above, which were once a major component of the ventilation system of the building. The door hardware is missing in many locations, and would likely need to be replaced completely with the exception of some hinges. The Baggage/Freight area has a 6'-0" x 9'-9" sliding door on the south elevation. There is no transom above this door. This door is not currently functioning and will require extensive repairs or replacements. A 6'0" x 6'-10" opening exists on the north side of the building. These double doors are 2-panel wood doors with no remaining hardware except for the hinges. The panels have diagonal siding. In general, the doors are in poor condition. The area of the most substantial deterioration of the doors is the bottom sill, which in most cases is rotting and in need of repair or replacement. Most door frames will need to be reconstructed and the salvageable doors will require repairs in order to function properly and be secure.
The majority of the windows in the building are broken and missing due to the settlement of the foundation. Several transoms have been boarded over and some windows just have remains of glass shards. The windows were originally individual panes of divided lite glass, with 2' wood sills. The window trim is the same as the door trim: 1 x 6 painted wood. The vertical window and door trim boards extend beyond the headers in the form of mitered tabs. Many of the windows have missing or broken glass and have been covered with wood sheeting.
The interior floors are primarily wood, with the exception of the restroom and storage space floor, which is concrete, as they are located above the concrete pit. The flooring in the Freight/Baggage area is original, composed of 2 x 10 planks, running west-east. The flooring in the Agent Office, also original, is 1 x 3/4" tongue and groove, running west-east. The 1 x 5 1/4" tongue and groove flooring in the Sitting Room is apparently not original, as it appears to be laid over the original flooring, running north-south. The condition of the flooring is fair to poor with some warping, located mostly in the Agent's Office. There is rotting in several areas. The restroom and storage area both have concrete floors, and are located above the concrete pit. There appears to be little (if any) settlement in these areas because they bear on more stable soils. Over time, the flooring has assisted in stabilizing the floor framing against failure due to excessive differential settlement.
The Sitting Rooms walls are finished with 5" wood wainscoting with 2" strips. All of the walls are painted a pale green color, and the paint is peeling and flaking. A chair rail was removed at some point in the building's history, there is evidence within the room. Several pieces of the wood wainscoting are missing at the chimney (located on the east wall of the room) and the brick is exposed in this location. The Agent Office walls are similar to the Sitting Room walls. There are several built-in components lining the perimeter of the room, including a shelf unit at the rectangular bay window. The walls are painted up to approximately 7', and left unpainted to the ceiling. The wood dividers at the south rectangular bay are not an original part of the building. The wall between the Agent Office and the Freight/Baggage room consists of 1 x 10 unfinished wood wainscoting up to 7', with the remainder of the wall being exposed structure.
The heating system consisted of a wood-burning stove located on the east wall of the Sitting Room, in front of the brick chimney. The wood-burning stove that sits in the Freight/Baggage is original to the building. The wood-burning stove was used to heat the most occupied rooms: the Sitting Room and Agent Office. Typically the Freight/Baggage Room was left unheated. The operable transoms throughout the building were the major component of the ventilation system in the building.