LAKE, MS (WLBT) - “The railroad was the central part of Lake. In fact the town was named after Mr. Lake who facilitated getting the railroad here," said Rita Vance, a member of the Lake Garden Club. "The cotton and the lumber and the pulpwood; all those things were put on the railroad and sent to Vicksburg and down the river and on to England and different places.”
So the railroad was very important to Lake from before the Civil War, but around the 1940s, highways were good enough that the frequency of the passenger trains slowed and finally by the late 1960s, trains quit stopping at Lake altogether.
By then the old depot was in the way of the railroad and they sold it for five dollars, with the stipulation that it be moved.
“Miss Sharon, Miss Helen Sharon was a local pharmacist here and she bought it from the railroad, had it moved back this way about a hundred and fifty feet, and she wanted to donate it to the town to be used for a library and a museum,” added Vance
Well, it ended up that eventually the Lake Garden club picked up the depot as a restoration project. Lovenia Logan was a member back then and remembers it took a while to raise the funds to restore the building.
“Took a long time. It was hard work but it was worth it,” said Logan.
Someone said they sold everything from pickles to pickup trucks. The garden club took it over in 1982 and finally opened it in 2003 as a town museum just to keep the building in good repair.
“This depot was built in 1892 on the Queen Ann architecture," said Rita. "It’s very rare; only remaining Queen Ann depot left in the state.”
Outside, it is as it looked in the best of its days. Inside there is a collection of memorabilia from donations around the area. Some related to the railroad, others not.
Belinda Evans says the garden club will open it by appointment any time but its for sure open one day a year.
“We usually open it a few hours on Lakefest Day in May and people can come in and look at the stuff that we have," said Evans. "And the people are really interested, mostly the older ones. The kids just wonder, you know, how did you send messages on this telephone.”
So the next time you are on I-20 in east Mississippi and have a minute or two, its worth the time to take a quick detour into downtown Lake, find the railroad and look to the south about a hundred and fifty feet and take a peak at the old depot.