SHELBURB — For many years, clerk-treasurer Jay Southwood has entertained a lofty vision for the now-restored former Interuban Depot building located on Mill Street, just west of the CSX Railroad.
"We're hoping this building is a cornerstone to start bringing this town back," he said on Monday morning during a ribbon-cutting ceremony. "(The town) will never be what it was when I was growing up, it had a lot of commerce. But that's OK too. We build with what we've got.
"The purpose of this is to generate interest. We hope, down the road, to turn this into a bar and restaurant. We obtained a three-way alcohol permit for this property four years ago. It's been in escrow. So, once we find a tenant, then they can operate off that permit. That's part of the plan."
As for a possible tenant, Southwood said several persons have expressed interest during a pair of open houses held at the building in recent weeks.
Southwood added the town has since acquired a property just to the west.
"There's one thing about Sullivan County, it is what it is and that's the way it is in Shelburn, there's no zoning," he explained. "So for commercial purposes, basically you've got to get the property around you to protect all this property you have invested in."
Southwood said this is not just one project, as the town has also acquired the former bank building across the street, which closed in 2014. Also acquired in recent years was a former factory property located across the railroad and across the street. A grant was used to demo that building, the town then acquired the property with the goal of a park to revitalize that area.
This building was operated as a Interurban Depot from June 1906 to midnight on May 24, 1931, according to research of archival records by Southwood.
"It has been a major component to the commerce of this town at that time," he said. "There were 30 businesses in downtown Shelburn. They used this (building) heavily for freight, in-and-out products and also as a passenger train."
Since 1931, he noted it's been a restaurant, American Legion post, even a pool hall for a short time in 1970s, then a factory.
"Then it just went into disarray, the factory went away. It just stayed boarded up for 20 to 25 years," Southwood said.
After the building was acquired by a donation, the town began the restoration project in 2012 when they received an Indiana Landmarks grant for a feasibility study, which was completed in 2013. This was followed by a grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs for a formal renovation plan for commercial or retail use.
The depot was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in December 2015, then underwent its exterior renovation which was completed in late 2017. The last step was the interior renovation completed earlier this year.