Can you help this heritage project? Preserving Nicholson’s Past by Renovating and Restoring 1849 Railroad Station into a Community Center

nicholson teaser

UPDATE:  Great news! The Nicholson Heritage Association purchased this station in June 2012. The next step is a feasibility study and the Association is waiting to hear back on whether or not they received a state grant to assist with this phase of the project. More information can be accessed at:  www.nicholsonstation.org

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The town of Nicholson, Pennsylvania is like many rural towns across America, hit hard by the migration of residents to cities and urban areas. At one time, small dairy farms surrounded this borough. Now, there are only a few farms left. While the permanent population hit an all-time high in 1940 at a little over 1,000 residents, it is now less than 700. U.S. Census Bureau population statistics for Nicholson since 1880 are captured below:

Nicholson PA Population
Nicholson PA Population
Station around the turn of the 20th Century
Station around the turn of the 20th Century

As someone who grew up in this small town, I myself now live and work in the Washington, DC metro area. Even so, Nicholson is still my hometown and there are many fond memories of summers spent mowing neighbor’s lawns, winters shoveling snow, afternoons after school delivering newspapers on my bicycle, and Friday nights and Saturdays working at the local grocery store. I still go home often to visit family. This project is one way for me to give back to my community.

In 2009, I contacted the Chair of the Nicholson Heritage Association, Marion Sweet, to offer my assistance and we’ve been working hard ever since! The Nicholson Heritage Association was founded as a non-profit organization in 1989 to organize the 75th Anniversary of the Nicholson Bridge and is dedicated to the historical preservation of Nicholson, PA. Not only can we preserve Nicholson’s past by renovating and restoring the former Delaware, Lackawanna and Western (DL&W) station into a community center, we can revitalize the town and the region at the same time.

Station in 2010
Station in 2010

History abounds in Nicholson, from the American Indians that lived and traveled here to the coming of the railroad and trolley that opened Nicholson to the rest of the region. Building a rail line in Nicholson forever changed the community as it connected people, commerce, and trade. In May 1878, the first telephone service in Northeastern Pennsylvania connected the Nicholson station to the DL&W Scranton station. In 1855, the local United States Post Office moved from the edge of the settlement to the Nicholson station.

With the completion of the Clarks Summit-Hallstead Cut-off in 1915, passenger service was provided out of the station next to the then just completed Nicholson Bridge, or Tunkhannock Viaduct, a half mile long reinforced concrete bridge that was the eighth wonder of the world when completed. After 1915, the station handled all freight, including after the merger of the DL&W with the Erie Railroad to become the Erie Lackawanna Railroad (EL). Due to financial hardship, the EL permanently closed the station in 1971 and only managed to survive until 1976 before being absorbed by Consolidated Rail (Conrail) in 1976.

Purpose of the Initiative
The Nicholson Heritage Association wants to renovate and restore the more than 160 year old historic railroad station into an innovative community center to encourage revitalization of the local and regional economy. We also believe that this community center will have a positive impact on the small town of Nicholson and the surrounding region by providing a place for residents to gather, as well as a local/regional museum for visitors.

Moreover, we want to encourage innovative partnerships and approaches to the historic preservation of this station, which was previously the center of the community, with local, state, and federal partners and other organizations. By working together, we can preserve this historical, cultural building and promote economic development within our region.

Right now, we are in the running for a Pepsi Refresh Project grant, but we need votes to win. You can vote for the project at http://www.refresheverything.com/revitalizeruraltown, up to ten projects once each day throughout the month of January. You can also vote by texting 105508 to Pepsi at 73774. We need your daily votes, one each by visiting the Web site and sending a text, to ensure that this preservation project gets funded and not left behind. Remember: VOTE daily, spread the word by telling your family and friends, post on your Facebook status, or even send a Tweet!

Moving Forward: Ideas Welcome!
At the moment, we are focused on the Pepsi Refresh Project, but voting will end on January 31, 2011. No matter the outcome, we will move forward to make this project a reality. Not only have we set up a website to get the word out about us and all our initiatives at www.nicholsonheritage.org, we also created a Facebook page and a Twitter account @NichlsonHertige. Moreover, we reached out to railroad historical societies and historical preservation organizations.

What else would you suggest? Do you have any ideas on how else to move forward, get the word out, and get individuals, not just in Nicholson, involved?

Besides this initiative, the Nicholson Heritage Association meets regularly to discuss projects, including sign placement at the Route 11 scenic stop, the Viaduct Valley Way Scenic Byway, and the 100th anniversary celebration of the Nicholson Bridge to take place in 2015. Nicholson Heritage Association’s next meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at the First Presbyterian Church, 65 State Street, in Nicholson.

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Photos courtesy of Josh Stull

Railroad background teaser photo by oops00086 on Flickr

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