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Friday, April 19, 2024

Princeton Platform

As Executive Director Eric Heidenreich promotes the attractions in Gibson County, he finds his workplace also is on many visitors’ must-see lists.

The Gibson County Visitors & Tourism Bureau, 702 W. Broadway St. in Princeton, Indiana, is located in a former train depot used by the former Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad and CSX Transportation today. The building, constructed in 1875, is considered a landmark for residents and notable for its caboose, historic brick walkway, and position next to the still-functioning railroad tracks that run through Princeton.

Tours are available at no charge Monday through Friday. Antiques, an old safe, baggage claim sliding doors, a ticketing window, and an ice pick stuck into the main office wall are all evidence of the former depot, which was used as a train station until the service was discontinued in the 1960s. Train operators used it as their office space until the early ’80s. Princeton Railroad Station, Inc. acquired the building and began the process of restoring it. John Burris, a retired banker, is credited with handling a majority of the renovations himself.

The Gibson County Visitors & Tourism Bureau began in 1998 and three months later, Heidenreich was hired. It was formerly located in a small office building east of the Gibson County Courthouse. The tourism bureau has two full-time employees, Heidenreich and Kelly Scott, manager of visitor services, and a part-time marketing consultant, Paula French.

“As work continued on this building, people were really interested in the building,” says Heidenreich, who grew up in Princeton. “We thought there was no way we could use that as an office. But we were down here one day as the renovations were getting close to done, and we thought, ‘Maybe we can make this work.’”

The tourism office moved into the former train depot in 2005 after agreeing with the railroad board that it could be mutually beneficial.

“We kind of resisted because of the proximity to the railroad tracks,” says French.“Mr. Burris had done an excellent job on the renovation, but there were still things to be done. Once we made the commitment, we wanted to save this building. A building that is not inhabited will deteriorate over time. We took the plunge and said, ‘We can make this work.’”

In addition to Burris’ renovations, the bureau replaced all of the windows, renovated the bathroom, added cabinets for office needs, painted the exterior of the building, and added workspaces in the former baggage claim area of the depot. A fence also was installed to eliminate access from the building onto the tracks. Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Indiana provided a grant to replace the roof.

“We try to keep everything as authentic as we can and still function as an office,” says Heidenreich.

For more information about the Gibson County Visitors & Tourism Bureau, call 812-385-0999 or visit gibsoncountyin.org.

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