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December 10, 2013

Dismantling a depot: Charred Flora landmark being put into storage

Charred Flora landmark being put into storage

(Continued)

The Flora depot was constructed 36 years after the first Vandalia Rail Road tracks were laid through Flora in 1872 to carry freight. Crews from the railroad finished the station in January 1908 at a cost of $10,000, according to Flora centennial booklets preserved at the Flora library.

The building originally stood at 4 S. Center St. between Main and Columbia streets, on the east side of the tracks, and served as a hub for the area’s increasingly heavy passenger rail service. At one point after the depot’s construction, as many as eight passenger trains stopped in Flora each day.

In 1940, the railroad became known as the Pennsylvania railroad, and the depot came to be called the “Penn Central Railroad Station.” However, over the next several years passenger rail petered out. The last passenger train left Flora on May 23, 1958, headed to points north.

Flora’s centennial history recalls that the town bought the depot lot in 1969 and moved the depot to its present site on Ind. 75, a few hundred yards south of the intersection with Ind. 18. By 1972, the depot had become a laundromat.

However, that second life ended June 21, 2003.

News reports from the following day recount the scene of an exploding washing machine that sparked a fire at the old depot around 6:13 p.m. that Saturday. One woman who was inside the laundromat said she’d smelled gasoline just before another, unidentified woman loaded dirty clothes in a washing machine, which exploded when the woman turned it on.

The building was fully engulfed in flames by the time Flora volunteer firefighters arrived on scene. It took them 20 minutes to extinguish the blaze, during which they ripped out portions of the roof and the eaves.

Since the fire, it’s sat empty, with tarps covering the holes in the roof, Hufty said. There’s some water damage in addition to the smoke and heat damage inside, though much of the building — constructed of old hardwood — remains sturdy.

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