It has been a long time since a train passed through Xenia. Some will remember the tracks on Detroit Street. It was not unusual to be followed down the street by a slow-moving train. Did you ever wonder how it was decided which side of the street the train would go?
Merchants were interested in having the train stop in front of their businesses for obvious reasons. Hotel managers wanted to have the passengers get off the train right at their front door and merchants had a better chance to sell goods if the passenger saw their store first. There was considerable discussion about which side of the street would benefit from the train coming through, but it was through the influence of Ryan Gowdy.
Mr. Gowdy donated a lot at the southeast corner of Detroit and Second streets with the understanding that the railroad would construct an “uptown” station on the site.
The deed conveying the property to the Little Miami Railroad was executed June 26, 1844. This was eight years after the Little Miami war chartered but one full year before the line was constructed between Cincinnati and Springfield. At the time, the tracks had even reached Xenia.
Many years passed before the deed was finally settled. Little Miami President Jeremiah Morrow officially accepted the property on June 26, 1866.
The deed conveyed the lot to the railroad “forever” with the exception of “the wagon shop on the south side and corner, and the blacksmith’s shop on the west side and corer north of the same.”
An additional clause was as follows: “Provided, nevertheless, and it is hereby expressly understood, that whenever the Little Miami Railroad Company shall remove their depot from the said premises, the same shall revert to and become again the property of the said James Gowdy for the only use, benefit and behooved of him and his heirs as fully as if this instrument had not been executed.”
The railroad agreed and so constructed a two story building which was used for many years as a depot. The train made two stops each time it came through the city, one at the Pennsylvania station and the other at the “uptown” station. However, by 1940, it was determined that the “uptown” station was no longer necessary.
At one time, the upper floor of the building was used for a private school. There were several private schools in town at that time. This particular one was maintained by a sister of Frank Peas who was an early superintendent of the Little Miami Railroad, predecessor of the Pennsylvania Railroad.
When enrollment was at its largest, Miss Peas could boast that she had 70 students enrolled. One of her students, Horace McClung went on to be the clerk at the Citizens National Bank.
Later, William Gregg and his wife Anna lived on the second floor. He had been a Pennsylvania yard clerk.
When the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad came into town in 1940, someone proposed that the station looked as though it needed some restoration. It was hoped that at the least a fresh coat of paint could be applied to the exterior. The railroad president agreed to see what he could do to improve the appearance, but soon after notice of the proposed demolition was given.
A local resident sent a letter to the president expressing his surprise after it had seemed that the railroad might be in favor of property improvement. The president replied that he would look into the future plans for the property.
Many questions arose among the residents. Would the building be abandoned and torn town? Would the heirs attempt to prove after more than 90 years that they owned the property? Would the railroad cease to pay the real estate taxes any longer and allow the property to be forfeited to the state and sold at auction after a five-year period?
Although it had been many years since the train had stopped to pick up or discharge passengers at the site, the Pennsylvania Railroad never officially declared that the uptown station had been abandoned.
The newspaper speculated that “the court may be called upon to decide the question of what constitutes abandonment of property for railroad purposes – whether failure to stop trains at the South Detroit St. station is sufficient evidence, or whether the site remains technically a “station” as long as the depot building remains on the site.
When the railroad finally abandoned the structure, per the requirement of the original deed, the property did revert to the Gowdy heirs. Three brothers were identified. One of whom lived in California, one in New Jersey and the residence of the third was unknown. A local attorney worked to clear the title and then a Cincinnati investor purchased the property. The building was torn down and a new building was erected in 1941 which was used by Albers Grocery.
Several different tenants occupied the building over the years. It was even used temporarily for the post office, but eventually became the site of Daum’s Furniture Store which closed several years ago.
Joan Baxter is a local resident and long-time historical columnist.