Great News on the Dante Depot

4-14-2011 Representatives with the Virginia Coal Heritage Trail Advisory Committee met last week at the Hillman House in St. Paul with representatives from the Heart of Appalachia Tourism Authority; Virginia Coal Heritage Trail; SRRA; People, Inc.; and Dante Lives On. Bryan Phipps, representative of People, Inc.; Carol White, Russell County Administrator and I met today for further discussion as a follow-up to last week’s meeting. Linda Tate, director of the Russell County Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Director and Chair of Virginia Coal Heritage Trail Advisory Committee, provides a brief summary of the meeting is provided below.

In her e-mail sent to the Virginia Coal Heritage Trail Advisory Committee, Linda Tate stated that the Russell County can provide necessary liability coverage through VACORP fairly inexpensively as the owner of the building, covering county employees or those deemed as appropriate volunteers as accepted by Russell County. People, Inc. would be willing to sub-lease the building and manage the property, as well as assist with seeking funding to renovate the property. Dante Lives On has been advised there is a local resident who is willing to provide materials and labor to replace the roof on the depot. SRRA would like for the depot to eventually be a trailhead for the organization, with the sale of permits at that location. Heart of Appalachia Tourism Authority would simply like a presence (possibly a banner-up and brochure rack) in the building. I have spoken with Debby Spencer of WMTH Corporation by phone and updated her on the developments thus far. Carol White, County Administrator, has just been provided with the preliminary CSX proposal with conceptual drawings for review, which will need additional review by our County Attorney as well. Bryan Phipps with People, Inc. has advised that the preliminary proposal is acceptable to them. Once all parties with a vested interest has made necessary changes, Russell County and People, Inc. can be plugged into the plan and a final draft sent to CSX for review.

11/10/10 - CSX agreed to meet to discuss the Depot issue in Dante!

Wednesday, October 20th - Great News! The Dante Depot will not be torn down at this point!!
CSX has granted a 90 day extension at this time to give the community time to come up with a plan.

  • On the 325 mile Virginia Coal Heritage Trail there was once a depot in nearly every town, some had three or four. There are now only a few remaining - click here.
  • How close did we come to losing the depot? CSX had already loaded the demolition equipment onto a rail car along with eight large trash bins that were to head to Dante this morning. We were told last night, CSX crew members were contacted yesterday afternoon to stop the shipment. The rail cars were then unloaded and the Dante Depot demolition put on indefinite hold! That is how close it was!
  • There is no doubt that if it had not been for Senator Warner and Congressman Boucher and their staff who have been working with CSX officials since they first became aware of the situation last week, this outcome would not have occurred.
  • Thank You Congressman Boucher and Senator Warner for understanding the urgency of the situation and how important this was not only to those in Dante but to all who have been working on the Virginia Coal Heritage Trail and to Virginia itself!
  • Thank you Graham Landscape Architecture who volunteered their time and made this a priority project! And thank you to each and everyone of you who stepped forward and provided information, wrote letters and made phone calls. You all "made this happen"!
  • Graham Landscape Architects (Nathaniel Brown) in Abingdon, VA has volunteered their services and have developed a plan to how the Dante Depot can be saved without having to move it. See below for a concept design.
  • Click here for more information on railroads along the route.
  • Letter of Support from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, click here.
  • Click here for funding concepts for the Depot from the Virginia Department of Transportation.
THE SITUATION: The citizens of Dante are working very hard to preserve their history and their buildings. In a town meeting recently, plans were made to develop a walking tour of the downtown area as part of the proposed National Coal Heritage Trail Byway initiative this community and 50 others along the route are working on. In the works now is a corridor management plan to try to protect and preserve some of the treasured sites along the route. Why now when the town is working so hard to preserve what still remains.
Why now when a concerted effort of seven counties have come together to develop a byway that focuses on the history of the region? Why the depot when in fact, the depot was often the center of the community bringing in much needed supplies and transporting the coal out.

One can not tell the story of coal without also including the railroad. It is such an important part of the story that is trying to be told. (click on layout to the right for larger version)

HISTORY: The Dante Depot was built in 1930 at a cost of $8,189.66 by the Clinchfield Coal Corporation. The agency closed in 1966.

The depot has sat vacant and unused for over 40 years. CSX actually cleaned out the Depot last Spring and informed the Town of Dante that the intent was to tear it down unless the town folks wanted to move it back 50 feet, at which time, the depot would become the property of the Town. In March, Laura McCammons of Dante, received a follow-up letter from CSX legal department offering, in writing, the building if the building was moved at least 50 feet from its site. Contact information is 904-633-4563 301 West Bay Street, Suite 800, S-C 1915, Jacksonville FL 32202

The community looked into moving the structure but the costs they were getting was close to $150,000 due to the fact that the depot is built of brick and is on a solid foundation. The towns people do not have $150,000.


Nathaniel Brown, landscape architect with Graham Landscape Architecture, Abingdon VA ... has agreed to develop some plans on how the depot could stay in the current location. Plans are expected to be released by Tuesday afternoon.

Senator Warner's Washington, DC office has met with and talked to CSX officials to try to get an extension until plans can be completed and continues to correspond with them.

Congressman Boucher has sent a letter to Michael Ward, CEO of CSX Transportation out of Jacksonville, FL to request the preservation of the historic Dante Depot and his office has made numerous calls.

Since notice was served October 9, 2010:
The response has been tremendous on saving the Dante Depot. Individuals from every county have stepped forward offering their assistance and providing input and ideas. They have also forwarded the information to legislators, other organizations and individuals to the point that action is being taken to contact CSX and work out a solution to allow the depot not to be demolished.

A lot of citizens made phone calls, sent an e-mail or took some kind of action towards saving this depot, not because it effected them directly but because it was part of the Virginia Coal Heritage Trail, what each and everyone has proven that this byway does not just involve the section through their community. It is the entire route, from start to finish, and that each part effects the whole.

On September 22nd of this year, a town meeting was held in Dante as part of a series of town meetings held along the proposed National Coal Heritage Trail byway. The number one concern of the citizens of Dante was how to save their Depot. Dante is one of the best preserved coal communities along the entire 325 mile byway. They still have the church, the steam building, the coal bins, the depot, many of the coal company houses, and a few other buildings including the Dante Post Office. The Old Dante bank has been converted into the Coal & Railroad Museum and they are in the process of developing a walking tour through their community and the Depot is in the center of it all.

WMTH Corporation is a certified DBE.