SOUTHINGTON — More than 400 people from all over the state and two different countries stepped back into history this summer when they visited the old train depot on Canal Street that was transformed into a small museum.
On Saturdays and Sundays from July 13 through Sept. 15, people walking on the Rails to Trails linear park had the opportunity to peak through the train depot, which dates back to 1894.
After the town purchased the property to preserve it, volunteers transformed the old building into an historical pit stop with artifacts, photos and posters from the late 1800s to the early and mid 1900s.
Many volunteers had been involved with the Southington Historical Society. The building got a touch-up of paint and some landscaping was done as well.
Town Attorney Mark Sciota said he was surprised with how many people stopped to check out the refurbished building. People from seventeen different towns in the state, two people from Canada and one from Japan walked through the space.
“When they told me that, I was pretty impressed,” said Michael Manware, the assistant superintendent of parks.
People stopped by the depot were asked to sign in, leave comments and where they were from to keep track.
“I was very happy with all the comments I heard,” Sciota said. “There were a couple constructive criticisms, but overall very positive.”
On weekends, historical society vice president Phil Wooding would often give narrative tours. Sciota said people were very happy to have someone explaining the collection.
Because it was so well-received, Sciota hopes to work with the historical society to create an audio loop next year, so when people look through the building they have something to listen to with some historical background.
“We thought it was very successful as far as for the first year for it being open,” said Manware. “ We’re happy to go forward and do some additional work.”
Another change in the works for next year is to add air conditioning.
“That was the number one criticism,” Sciota said, recalling the summer days when temperatures soared into the high 90s.
New plans also include changing the display of photos twice, once in the summer and once in the fall and keeping the attraction open longer into September. Sciota also mentioned the possibility of opening the grove area near the building and adding picnic tables, benches and a bike rack.