Abandoned Vermont: Fair Haven Depot

Looking northeast on the tracks at the Fair Haven Depot.

A train depot is a type of structure that is easily recognizable by many people, partially because it is adjacent to railroad tracks and partially because of its form and massing. Tell tale features to look for include 1) a bay window or projection from the building that would offer a better line of sight, 2) a long, narrow building, usually with a gable  or hipped roof, 3) large freight doors on one end and pedestrian sized doors on another, and 4) infrastructure for signals on and near the building.

This depot in Fair Haven,VT was constructed c. 1890 in order to service the nearby slate quarries in addition to passenger traffic. It is a historically significant structure. The railroad owns the building and was an Amtrak stop (not station) until 2010, when Amtrak left Fair Haven in favor of Castleton, VT (located five miles east). Currently it sits abandoned and neglected. Well, I consider it abandoned because of the neglect. Officially, this building has an owner. The painted plywood windows and doors serve as a detraction from its neglect, but the building is suffering from masonry deterioration.

Quite the sunny, warm January day in Fair Haven.

Here you can see the bay window projection and freight doors at the end of the building. Also note the slate shingle detail in the gable above the bay projection and the beadboard beneath, used as siding.

The gable above the bay and the former location of the signal arms.

Extensive masonry deterioration on the south wall.

One of the largest piles of railroad ties that I have ever seen.

The gateway to the depot is a 1938 concrete bridge.

Aside from neglect, the good news is that the building appears secure (save for lots of critters). The bad news is that there are no plans by the railroad or by the town to do anything with the depot. (I could be mistaken, however, and I hope I am.) Train depots are iconic buildings that all people can connect to whether due to memories or movies or the lure of trains. If you have a train depot in your area, contact your local officials and potentially interested organizations – get your town geared up for a rehabilitation project! Need some success stories? Check out the Swanton Railroad Museum, the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Cafe or the South Londonderry Depot. Find others here.

Transportation related structures benefit immensely from the Transportation Enhancements Grants program, which is severely at risk right now. Please tell your legislators how important TEs are to your community. Remember this post? The Importance of Transportation Enhancement Grants to Historic Preservation.

The Importance of Transportation Enhancement Grants to Historic Preservation

Historic preservation and transportation enhancement grants/funding are incredibly interconnected; so much of preservation work throughout this nation is funded by transportation grants. Why? Part of it has to do with federal regulations – Section 4(f) of the DOT Act of 1966, which is connected to fact that many transportation projects prior to that law devastated and erased historic resources. Now, a chunk of transportation money goes to funding transportation related preservation projects in your community. Think of streetscapes, sidewalks, rest areas, parks, rails to trails, bike lanes, historic buildings that related to transportation – the list is almost endless. Without Transportation Enhancement funding, our historic communities would look much different.

A bike path travels across a truss bridge on a dirt road - a good incorporation of a historic bridge that can longer service vehicles.


The view from that bridge. This project wasn't necessarily a TE grant project, but it is a good example of similar projects.

Recently, these Transportation Enhancement grants were at risk of being eliminated. Thankfully, on September 15, the Senate voted in favor of the transportation fund and saved the funding for another six months.

From the words of the National Trust for Historic Preservation:

Last week, we posted a call for action to help save the Transportation Enhancements (TE) Program. We are pleased to share that for now, funding for TE remains intact.

On September 15, a six-month extension of the transportation program (SAFETEA-LU) passed without a harmful amendment that would have stripped the TE program of its dedicated funding.

While this is excellent news, we must remain vigilant as future threats are likely. Congress will negotiate the long-term reauthorization of the TE program in the next six months. We will be asking for your help in communicating to your Members how important this program is to your state.

Visit our expanded transportation-related content on PreservationNation to explore the many ways historic preservation and transportation can combine to enrich communities. Find us on Facebook and Twitter to stay updated on this issue and others that affect the historic places that matter to you.


I’m sure I’ve rambled on about the connections between historic preservation and transportation. If you look around you and consider how many elements relate to traveling and mobility, a light bulb should go on in your head: sidewalks, roads, bike paths, historic bridges, transportation structures, parks… the list doesn’t really end. If you are interested in the actual legal connections, The Center for Environmental Excellence of AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, a non-profit group that represents all DOTs) provides a thorough explanation of transportation related cultural resource laws.

Now, back to Transportation Enhancements. From the US Federal Highway Administration (FHWA):

Transportation Enhancement (TE) activities offer funding opportunities to help expand transportation choices and enhance the transportation experience through 12 eligible TE activities related to surface transportation, including pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure and safety programs, scenic and historic highway programs, landscaping and scenic beautification, historic preservation, and environmental mitigation. TE projects must relate to surface transportation and must qualify under one or more of the 12 eligible categories.

Those 12 eligible categories are defined as these:

  1. Provision of pedestrian and bicycle facilities
  2. Provision of pedestrian and bicycle safety and education activities
  3. Acquisition of scenic or historic easements and sites
  4. Scenic or historic highway programs including tourist and welcome centers
  5. Landscaping and scenic beautification
  6. Historic Preservation
  7. Rehabilitation and operation of historic transportation buildings, structures, or facilities
  8. Conversion of abandoned railway corridors to trails
  9. Control and removal of outdoor advertising
  10. Archaeological planning and research
  11. Environmental mitigation of highway runoff pollution, reduce vehicle-caused wildlife mortality, maintain habitat connectivity
  12. Establishment of transportation museums.

See how broad these categories are? You can probably find a connection in your project, or make connections in order to qualify for transportation grants. Each state has different programs – check it out on the National Transportation Enhancements website.

The FY 2010 National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse report states that since 1992, over $12 billion have been apportioned for transportation enhancements grants. WOW!¬† What a difference TE money has on our communities. Grants have even funded preservation projects for transportation related hotels. Check out examples of TE projects. Search by state to find one near you. You’ll be surprised at what has been funded by TE grants.

Now imagine if this money was suddenly cut from the budget? All of the activities and projects that connect our communities to each other and our history would be lost. Transportation is more than potholes, paving and plowing; it is essential to our everyday lives and our environment.

As cheesy as this sounds, I like to think that it all comes back to transportation because you wouldn’t be anywhere if you couldn’t get anywhere. What do you think? Ridiculous? Too trippy for a Friday afternoon? Think about it.

Now, I’m curious. Readers, were you aware of the transportation-preservation-community connection in terms of funding or even theory? It’s so normal to me, but before I worked in transportation, it wasn’t as obvious. Let me know! What do you think of TE grants?

The approach to the Cross Vermont Trail bridge - go for a bike ride this fall!