Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 5, 2006

million grant OK’d for depot|[12/05/06].

The organization working to turn the Levee Street Depot into a transportation museum has been approved for a $1.6 million grant and may receive more.

The grant will go toward the $2.5 million cost estimate to convert the vacant downtown building that during its history served as a depot for railroads including the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley and Illinois Central.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

The grant is from the Mississippi Department of Transportation and word is expected as early as this week on further funding sought from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, said the organization’s president, Lamar Roberts.

The transportation museum is part of an overall redevelopment of the City Front area that already includes murals on the flood walls, a splash and a river-themed art park. In progress are the transportation museum and a Corps of Engineers museum to include a fixed display of the MV Mississippi.

Roberts said full funding was for the project and the MDOT allocation is a big step.

&#8220This is going to allow us to go ahead and get the (architectural) drawings made” and advertise for bids for renovation work on the building, Roberts said.

The depot was built in 1907 and was purchased by the city from private owners about five years ago. Its roof was damaged by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, Roberts said.

City workers began preparation work for the renovation in the summer, have repaired the roof and have &#8220done about 80 percent of our tearing-out that we’re going to have to do,” Roberts said.

&#8220We will also be able to, with this money, start putting our exhibits together and how we want to lay them out and what exhibits we will have because part of that was included in the grant, in renovating the building and getting the museum on its feet,” Roberts said.

City Planner Wayne Mansfield told the city board that the award was the largest of its kind made in the state transportation commission’s central district this year.

Mayor Laurence Leyens said the museum will create &#8220a new venue for tourism and city taxpayers’ assets will be improved.”

The building has 14,000 square feet on three levels, Roberts said. One each of the two former, segregated waiting areas on the ground level are to serve as a gift shop and space for railroad memorabilia, Roberts said. The former train platform is 28 feet by 80 feet, has been enclosed and will be occupied by about 20 model train sets, Roberts added.

The second level is to be occupied by a museum focusing on the area’s history in aviation and the uppermost level is to be for a library and research center, Roberts said.

&#8220Outside we will have an assortment of rail cars for people to walk around and go through,” Roberts said. &#8220We will also have some old wagons and buggies for people to look at. We are going to have to build a carriage house for that.”

Architectural drawings for the renovation are to be done by Waycaster & Associates of Natchez, Roberts said. The project’s schedule calls for them to be done by 30 days after final acceptance of the grant.

&#8220I’m hoping that we’ll be seeing some action down there by the end of January or the first part of February,” Roberts said of the group’s plans.

The railcar-office and legislative archives of the late Mississippi House of Representatives speaker C.B. &#8220Buddie” Newman of Valley Park have been donated to the museum. Plans are to open the office to the public and display parts of the archive on a rotating basis, Roberts said.

&#8220Anybody that has railroad memorabilia, towboat, riverboat memorabilia or anything connected with the old Southern Air Lines” may donate such items to the museum as tax-deductible contributions, Roberts said.

Roberts is also developer of the Blue and Gray Naval Museum that evolved into the Battlefield Museum adjacent to Battlefield Inn. He is also a board member of the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.