The Paris Train Depot was constructed in 1882, built in late American Victorian style, handcrafted completely from wood and topped with a tin roof. It was expanded in 1908 and again in 1911 by Louisville & Nashville Railroad, commonly called the L & N, and the property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
During the depot’s heyday, the station was crowded with salesmen, students commuting to college in Lexington and Georgetown and people traveling for business and leisure to Lexington, Louisville and Cincinnati. Racehorses shipped from local thoroughbred farms to New York and Baltimore, with the owners behind them in Pullman cars, the first-class travel of its time.
The railroad helped Bourbon County farmers export their products to distant markets – weekly shipments of cattle, sheep and hogs were send to Chicago meatpackers. Hemp and grains also shipped from Paris.
When the city built a small opera house on Main Street, actors and actresses arrived in Paris by trains. These celebrity arrivals and departures were witnessed by locals who gathered at the depot to see the stars.
According to the National Register of Historic Places, Teddy Roosevelt, then a presidential candidate, made a whistle-stop speech at the depot, where he was greeted by local children who had been dismissed from school for the occasion.
As the nation grew in the 20th century, new innovations in travel came along – automobiles, the interstate highway system and airplanes. The importance of railroads to the American economy – and to Paris and Bourbon County -- began to diminish. By the late 1960s, the last regular passenger train pulled away from Paris.
In the early 1970s, CSX gave the depot to the city on a lease which could be terminated at any time. But CSX kept the land underneath it – a key reason the depot sat vacant and decaying for a large part of the last 50 years.
The property did contain several businesses over the years, including the beloved former Iron Rail Restaurant owned by Charles and Ann Ramey of Paris.
In 2017, Darrell and Debbie Poynter and their sons Chris and Brian acquired the depot from the city under the condition that it be historically restored. The Poynter family also purchased the land underneath the Depot from CSX – making a renovation possible.
Paris businesswoman Dottie Spears, who has long had a vision to help grow the Paris economy and bring tourists to town in addition to serving local people great food at good prices, opened Trackside Restaurant and Bourbon Bar in the depot.
The main dining room and bar was originally the main passenger waiting room, hence the considerable number of windows that let natural light flood into the building. The two historic ticket windows (one for whites, another for blacks) were saved and incorporated into a seating area known as “The Ticket Booth.”
The middle two rooms of the depot, which originally served as a waiting room for African-Americans and the depot master’s office, were combined into one – it now houses the kitchen, manager’s office, laundry room and employee bathroom.
The second dining room, nearest Winchester Street and which will be used as overflow seating and for special events and receptions, was the baggage room. The large sliding door helped to move luggage and freight in and out of the depot. The original baggage scale was saved and how sets outside.
Though the depot had serious deterioration, about 85 percent of the original woodwork was saved. In spots where the wood was replaced, it was replicated. All of the windows of the train depot are original to the building and were saved and restored, with new glass installed.
The three colors of the depot were chosen by Debbie Poynter after careful historical research and visiting the few remaining depots in Kentucky.
The butterfly passenger canopy was in serious need of repair and portions of it sagged significantly, due to water damage over the decades. The canopy was stabilized and restored but contains 95 percent of its original wood. The canopy was originally at least twice its current size, stretching all the way to Winchester Street.
The town clock is not original to the property, but it was purchased from a clockmaker in nearby Versailles.
The triangle-shaped green space north of the depot will be improved next year and will be used for outdoor music concerts, weddings and special events.