Historic Structures

Johnson Railroad Depot, Johnson Vermont

Date added: September 4, 2022 Categories: Vermont Train Station

The Johnson Depot is significant as an excellent example of Victorian railroad architecture. Its distinctive Stick Style uses heavy chamfered wood trusses under wide eaves, and is otherwise enriched with Queen Anne period detail. The interior plan was a standard on northern Vermont rail lines, with separate waiting rooms for men and women, richly finished in beaded fir panelling. Both the interior and exterior are in near-original condition, including much of the hardware and fixtures.

The Depot's significance to the community goes far beyond its distinctive architecture. For nearly a century it played a major role in the economic and social lives of Johnson's townspeople, linking them to the people and markets of the whole nation. In 1887 this building was erected to replace an earlier structure which had served since 1872, the year the St. Johnsbury and Lamoille County Railroad first brought rail service to the town. Although the St. Johnsbury and Lamoille County line was originally financed and constructed by the Fairbanks Family of St. Johnsbury as a means of shipping their world-famous scales directly to their western buyers, the railroad's most permanent impact was to bring the hitherto-isolated mountain regions of north central Vermont into the industrial age. Much of Johnson's heavy produce; milk, woolen goods, talc, and wood products, passed through the Depot's freight doors. Express freight service made mail order shopping convenient, and kept the town supplied with fresh fruit and produce, groceries, and same-day mail. Passenger service also made it possible to make a one-day trip to Burlington for business or shopping.

The two-story stationhouse provided upstairs living quarters for the stationmaster, who supervised the day-to-day operation of the Depot, and was thus an important public figure in Johnson, Although regular mail service ended here in 1969, the continued daily passage of freight trains helps sustain the building's integrity as part of railroad heritage.

Situated by the tracks of the Lamoille County Railroad, in an industrial area on the southern edge of Johnson Village, the Johnson Depot is a two-story clapboard station house of approximately 6 by 2 bays, with an adjoining 1-1/2 story freight house of similar construction. The distinctively wide, overhanging eaves are finished with beaded soffits and supported by brackets made of heavy chamfered trusses. The raking eaves show decorative cut-out brackets, and original asbestos tiles cover the roof in a diamond pattern.

The irregular fenestration uses two-over-two sash, panelled and glazed doors, and plain surrounds with molded caps. The broad elevations of the station house, fronting on the street and the tracks, each have three entries; the track (south) elevation also has a rectangular bay window lighting the interior ticket office. The freight house has large service entries on both the street and track sides.

The interior walls and ceilings of the station house are fully sheathed with beaded fir panelling, and trimmed with moldings at the wainscot, crown, and in a grid pattern on the ceiling. Windows and doors have heavy molded surrounds with cornerblocks. The polygonal ticket office and an enclosed washroom area face each other and bisect the floor on a north/south axis, creating two mirror-image waiting rooms, each with half the ticket office and a bathroom serving it. The sales windows of the ticket office have broad sills supported by consoles. A shaped bench runs along the east and north walls. Many original hardware fixtures are found throughout the building.

Because the few alterations to the building have been mostly structural or functional, the Johnson Depot retains its original appearance to a remarkable degree. The major changes have been: temporary weathertight doors on the freight house service entries (planned to be replaced by sliding doors using original hardware), new chimneys, replacement of foundation and sills under the south facade, removal of track-side loading dock, and removal of a shed and balcony from the gable of the freight house.

Johnson Railroad Depot, Johnson Vermont North elevation (1980)
North elevation (1980)

Johnson Railroad Depot, Johnson Vermont West and south trackside elevation (1980)
West and south trackside elevation (1980)

Johnson Railroad Depot, Johnson Vermont South trackside elevation (1980)
South trackside elevation (1980)