The screams of slowing steel pierced the surrounding air as the cargo holder halted before the warehouse. Its contents were sorted and stored and the boxcars came and went. As years passed passengers loaded and left, some sorted just the same.
During a time where our country flirted with rebellion while headed in the direction of pursuing civil rights, the Old Gainesville Depot grew with its city and transported its people and their products where they desired to go.
Built in the 1860’s, the depot served Gainesville by means of the Florida Railroad, which connected the east and west coasts of the state to cut miles off cargo trips and provide a safer route for passengers. But after suffering losses during the Civil War, the Gainesville Depot lost steam and eventually defaulted to a dumping ground for industrial operations. Today, the space serves a new purpose.
After years of decay and neglect that led to a pit of coal tar residues and forgotten beams and lumber, the space has been purged of contamination and the foundation of the remaining historic station strengthened. In its place lies the new Depot Park.
In honor of the former transportation hub, when visitors enter the space they still feel as if they have been taken somewhere else.
“I would say I feel like I’m being taken to a place for relaxing,” says Jon Alfonso of his experience at the park. “The atmosphere there is super laid back with all of the sitting areas and open space. I think that the modern construction and landscaping sets it apart from the surrounding area.”
Tucked away within the fringe of the downtown Gainesville grid, the site includes a modern take on the community park. It features decorative railways and grey stones leading to a paved picnic area with high-tops and built in umbrellas. The promenade overlook set before the pond welcomes picnic-goers, sunset enthusiasts, and live music fans, surrounded by a walking track for those who prefer a scenic workout.
For younger visitors, a playground and fountain park outlines the grassy areas just outside the Boxcar and Pop-a-Top store. These two features were built within the Historic Depot Building and offer a unique event space and bar alongside Gainesville’s favorite general store.
By blending the sleek, open layout of the Boxcar space with the quirky and nostalgic wonderland within Pop-a-Top, visitors can enjoy good food, brews, and company under the roof of Depot Park’s new and improved commemoration of one of Gainesville’s most historic assets.
“It reminds me of Westworld honestly,” Alfonso jokes. “Choo Choo trains and a saloon? Totally Westworld. Pretty sure I saw Dolores last time I was there.”
Whether or not the space takes you to a fictional fantasy, it is a given that the hustle of the urban area disappears. The stress of campus life subsides. The obligations of the real world escape you. The Depot Park lets you enjoy something bigger.
“I like to sit on a bench and reflect there because it is relaxing and it feels removed from school. There seems to be more green space there than most parks, and it isn’t too cluttered which makes it unique,” says park visitor Mary Hannah Monroe. “It’s always nice to get away.”
Let Depot Park take you somewhere. Come on out and see it for yourself this Thursday, November 17th and help Gainesville Scene celebrate our new ownership as we #LaunchTheScene with our favorite picks from art, music, food, drinks and fun.
View photos and read article at: http://gainesvillescene.com/2016/11/15/launchthescene-depot-park/