Mapleton’s old railroad station has found a new home, without trains, in Florence
By LARRY BACON of the Register-Guard
FLORENCE – There’s not a railroad track in town, but Florence now has its first railroad station. The 64-year-old Mapleton Railroad Station, which had to be removed last summer because of a highway widening project at Mapleton, has been ”born again” on the Florence waterfront.
It will open soon as an antique store run by a couple of former Eugene residents who just happened to have always wanted to have a business in an old railroad station.
The story of the old station’s rebirth begins with Florence contractor Mike Johnson, who has an affection for old things. When he heard that Southern Pacific Railroad was going to have to tear the old station down, he began dickering to obtain the building.
For three years he dickered. Finally, the railroad gave him the green light. But there was a hitch. He had only five days to remove the structure. Rather than carefully disassemble it, Johnson and his crew had to use chain saws to quickly carve the walls and floor of the building into moveable sections. A small office area was the only piece that could be moved intact. The whole mess was trucked to Johnson’s shop yard at Florence and piled in a heap.
“I had no idea what we were going to do with the building,” he said. “But I knew an opportunity would come along.”
Opportunity came in the form of Ron Hogeland and Charles Bruske, who moved here two years ago from Wisconsin. Hogeland, a former college professor who got tired of academic life, operates a combination art gallery, antique and picture framing business here on Bay Street. Bruske works as a counselor at Camp Florence, a juvenile rehabilitation camp.
The two men were planning on investing in a waterfront lot to be part of a development of small shops and offices on Bay Street west of Laurel Street. They figured the old Mapleton Station would fit right in with the rest of the old buildings on Bay Street, where Florence began at the turn of the century.
The Mapleton Station building was just what they wanted. They said they once saw an antique store operating in an old railroad depot in Mt. Angel and had always dreamed about being able to have a similar store.
Hogeland and Bruske didn’t have any trouble in finding a tenant for the building. Harold and Mary Mohler retired from the day-care school business in Eugene a year ago and were operating the Town and Country Antique Shop in another building on Bay Street
The Mapleton Station building was just what they wanted. They said they once saw an antique doter operating in an old railroad depot in Mt. Angel and had always dreamed about being able to have a similar store.
“And here we are,” Mohler said.
It was no easy job to put together the jumble of pieces that the Mapleton Station was in when Hageland and Bruske acquired it.
“It was like a puzzle,” Hogeland said. Trouble was, the pieces didn’t all fit.
Hogeland said the job probably couldn’t have been done without Jim Alexander, a local builder who lives on Bay Street and has developed a reputation for working wonders with old buildings.
Alexander said the pieces had laid out in the weather and many were warped. Somer were rotten. Prospects for putting them together to make a building again looked discouraging.
But with the help of an understanding building inspector and some unconventional building methods, the job was done.
Some of the panels took days to get together. “We just jacked them around until they fit,” Alexander said.
Most of the rot was on the bottom of the walls. Alexander solved that problem by cutting the rot off. As a result, the building is nine inches shorter than it was before. Because of size limitations, he had to get some of the length out also. The building is now about five feet shorter than it was.
Hogeland said Alexander did his best to retain the integrity of the old building. The paint had been matched. The old doors were repaired rather than replaced. He said the Eugene Planing Mill reproduced some of the siding that was missing.
But some improvements have been made. For example, Alexander added a bay window that the original building didn’t have in order to take advantage of the Siuslaw River view that was not available at the station’s original location.
Hogeland thinks the “new” Mapleton Station looks better than the old one ever did.
Alexander is pleased, too. His house, a remodeled barber shop, is across the street from the Mapleton Station. He spends much of his leisure time sitting on a bench in front of his house watching the traffic on Bay Street and the river. The Mapleton Station will be a permanent part of his view.
It’s got a couple of flaws, Alexander said, as he settled back on his bench and cast an appraising eye on the old building, “but it’s got a nice line on it.”