Brownstown Town Council discusses Ewing Depot



A rumor that the Ewing Depot is being sold by the town of Brownstown has been derailed.

Darlene Butt, who along with her late husband, Jim, spearheaded the restoration of the historic building at 1200 W. Spring St., said she was told the town was selling the depot because it doesn’t have anything to put in it or do with it and it has become a liability.

“I guess I’m here because I don’t feel like it can be sold because there are so many donation dollars and other people’s hours and time and all of that involved in it, and I’m just here to see what’s going to happen with the depot,” she said during a recent Brownstown Town Council meeting.

Town attorney Travis Thompson said he would have been involved in the process to sell real estate owned by the town, and there has been no indication that process should begin.

Council members also squashed the rumor.

“We have not discussed selling that,” Councilman Tim Robinson said.

He said he once talked about teaching Financial Peace University classes in the depot, but selling the building hasn’t been discussed.

“It has been on our agenda several times ‘What can we do with it?’” he said.

Councilwoman Crystal Stuckwisch said they have been trying to find uses for the building, which she described as “gorgeous” and “an amazing property.” She said she recently mentioned to someone that it would be a great place to host a small party.

“It would be great if we could find a way to use it in the community,” she said.

Councilman Mark Reynolds said the council hasn’t discussed or thought about selling the depot.

“There has been discussion on what we could get in there, like we could rent, but not sell,” he said.

Kenny Sweeney, who said he spent five to six months of “hard labor” on the restoration project, accompanied Butt at the meeting and said hearing those comments from the council made him feel a lot better.

“Personally, I feel that if one day down the road, you guys decide ‘This is a liability. We need to get this out of our hair’ and decide to sell it … some of the people that have put so much into it should be allowed the chance to buy it, even if it’s a public auction,” Sweeney said. “There was a lot of money spent on that — a lot of money.”

If the town decided to declare the building surplus property and sell it, Thompson said a public notice would be issued and appraisals would be needed.

“I’ve not even heard of any mention of any type of sale,” he said.

Clerk-Treasurer David Willey said he once asked Butt’s thoughts if the town wasn’t able to find a use for the building and someone proposed purchasing it.

“I gave it to you, so I can’t say, ‘Oh, you can’t sell it,’” Butt said of the town taking ownership in early 2018. “But I don’t feel it’s right to sell it because it was a historical project that we did for the town, and what are the people that donated all of this money and time going to say when they read in the paper that the depot has been sold that they have given thousands of dollars to? Are you going to give them the money back?”

Willey said he just started the conversation in case something would come up.

“We can’t find a use for it,” he said. “It’s sitting out there, and it’s not doing anything.”

In the fall of 2018, The Jackson County Banner newspaper office and Brownstown Chamber of Commerce moved to the historic depot building, which was opened by the Baltimore and Ohio Southwestern Railroad in 1913.

In 2019, however, the chamber merged with Brownstown Ewing Main Street. And on Sept. 30, 2020, the newspaper office moved out because owner and publisher AIM Media Indiana decided not to renew its lease.

CSX Railroad had given the building to the town, which in turn gave it to Brownstown Ewing Main Street after that organization was established in 2010-11.

Then came a roadblock when it was learned the depot was too close to the railroad tracks. The depot was 17 feet from the tracks and needed to be moved at least 40 feet away from railroad right of way for safety purposes.

It was moved 80 feet away in July 2013 at a cost of $13,800, thanks to donations from individuals and businesses. Butt purchased the property for that move.

She later spearheaded a Brownstown Ewing Main Street project to restore the depot. That involved many financial contributions and the persistence of many in the community, Butt said.

“My husband and I were very interested in restoring it because we were working down in Ewing and trying to get a lot of buildings and things restored,” she said. “We had a lot of people that donated time as well as money and put in a lot of hours to fix the depot up.”

In 2016, as part of the restoration project, a replica of a small structure with windows on all four sides for a signal operator was built. Butt said that came about because the late Herschel Forgey remembered the structure and its inside. A sidewalk also was installed to connect the shed with the depot.

Some of the structure of the freight station is original, Butt said. There is one main room in the building, and it features wooden flooring and siding. It has a newer bracing system for the roof with one original beam that stretches the length of the ceiling. A long table made of wood from the original floor sits in the middle of the depot.

The roof was in such poor condition, volunteers had to construct a new one because insurance costs would have been much higher, Butt said.

At the beginning of 2018, the town took ownership of the building after Butt signed the deed over. She said she hoped the town would use the structure as a gathering place for local residents that would honor the Ewing community’s history.

The town has since spent money on adding a parking lot with handicap spots and putting a handicap ramp on the building, and the council has discussed different options for tenants.

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