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Harpers Ferry trains station officially reopens

April 28, 2007|By DAN DEARTH

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - The National Park Service officially opened the renovated Harpers Ferry train station on Saturday morning during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Speakers competed with passing train whistles for the attention of roughly 100 architects, contractors, engineers, park rangers and residents who attended the event.

Peter Dessauer, an architect with the National Park Service in Harpers Ferry, said the $2.35 million project started in 2001 and wrapped up earlier this year.

Seventy percent of the train station's wood fabric was salvaged and reused in the renovation, he said.

"We did not destroy the original," Dessauer said. "We tried to preserve it."

Dessauer said workers had to raise the train station to replace its original timber foundation with concrete. Built in the 1890s, he said the building "did what we wanted it to do."

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Robert D. O'Hatnick of Grieves, Worrall, Wright & O'Hatnick, a Baltimore-based architectural firm, said pneumatic jacks were used to elevate the building. Afterward, workers installed beams to stabilize it.

There was a concern that the vibration from passing trains might rock the building from atop the beams, said Mike Savageau of Lumus Construction Inc., a construction and facilities management business that had a hand in the renovation.

Savageau said Lumus Construction Inc. has worked on several national historical sites, including the Statue of Liberty.

While the building was heightened, archaeologists searched underneath for artifacts, said Andrew Lee, an archeologist with the National Park Service.

Federal law requires archeologists to be on site when there's a disturbance of the Earth where federal money is involved, he said.

Lee said only bottles and other items from the early 1930s were found below the building. That's probably because the current site is not the original one, he said.

The train station was moved in 1931 via rail to its existing home from an overlook near the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, where it sat since 1894, said Marsha Wassel, a spokeswoman with Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

In the late 1990s, the train station at Harpers Ferry was listed as one of the top 10 endangered train stations in the country, she said.

Once restoration funding was secured, architects began studying original drawings to return the building to mint condition, Wassel said. They went as far as scraping several layers of paint to determine the train station's original color.

"We have restored it to its original beauty and grandeur, and it's ready to welcome many more visitors for the next 100 years to Harpers Ferry," she said.

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