Residents who live near the Victorian-style railroad depot in Fairfax Station believe in the depot so completely that they are going to take it down and put it up again on a nearby hill -- giving it a permanent home.
The Friends of Fairfax Station already have started disassembling the 1850s depot -- removing exterior boards, decorative work and old chimney bricks and stacking them neatly inside the old structure. This Saturday, about 20 members garbed in engineers' caps and kerchiefs will proceed with the final disassembly when they take off the roof.
It's not the first time a station has come apart at the seams, says Wayne Nickum, a member of The Friends. A grassroots group in Hollsopple, Pa., did the same thing, preserving their town's station as a monument to the days when the railroad was vital to small communities.
"The mentality around Washington always seems to be, 'What's it going to cost?' Bucks! That's always the bottom line," says Nickum. "Let's take a look at Hollsopple, Pennsylvania. There's what community spirit and committment can do. They didn't dwell on what's it going to cost. They said, 'Let's get going and do it,' and they did! So can we!"
Nickum's spirited attitude is typical of the approximately 100 individuals who have joined forces during the past six years to save the depot. Eventually, they want to rebuild and transform the historic station into a railroad museum -- complete with gift shop, community room and park -- on five acres donated by two families -- Mark and Barbara Fried and the W. H. Moores. The Fairfax County Park Authority has agreed to accept and oversee temporarily the five acres of land. a
Fairfax Station is best known as the Civil War site where Clara Barton nursed soldiers during the battles of Second Manassas and Chantilly. Serving first as a supply base for Union forces during the summer of 1862. Fairfax Station became a center for emergency treatment and transportation of the wounded.
Barton nursed hundreds of Union soldiers, who covered the grounds from the emergency hospital set up at St. Mary's Church to the railroad station. She frequently raided the depot's freight room to recycle Southern families' "care packages" to meet the needs of her Yankee soldiers.
Barton escaped with the last group of wounded men just two hours before Confederate troops overran the area and burned the station almost to the ground. The depot, rebuilt by Union troops, eventually became important to community residents as a social and commuter center.
Fairfax Station, Southern Railway's last operating railroad station in Fairfax County, closed in 1973. It was abandoned for a time before being leased as a storage facility. In 1975, a small group of local residents, led by a lively, train buff and longtime village resident named Lena Wyckoff, organized efforts to preserve the old building in a manner befitting its history.
Wyckoff's determination to preserve the station resulted in the formation of The Friends, an offshoot of her success in gaining support from the Clifton Community Women's Club. During those early efforts to save the station, she worked on gain support from other Fairfax County residents, including public officials such as Fairfax County Board Chairman John F. Herrity, supervisor Marie B. Travesky and then-deputy county executive J. Hamilton Lambert.
Wyckoff's efforts culminated in the Southern Railway donating the station to The Friends in September 1977. Wyckoff, whom friends call the "Little Engine That Could," wants to have the depot designated a historic landmark, as St. Mary's Church was in 1972.
Wykcoff came to Fairfax Station as a teacher in 1934 and stayed on as the village's postmaster for 25 years. "I think it was within my own self and just talking with my son (that she became interested in preserving the station). I just love history so much that I couldn't hear to think of this not being here," she says.
Members of The Friends have agreed to complete the project sometime in the fall of 1982. "We hope to observe our 10th anniversary with the building open and operational," said Friends President Fred Bruney.
Last Saturday Bruney, his son Joe and daughter Lindsay, Wheeler Rogers and Wayne Nickum headed out early to complete interior disassembly; removal of all remaining electrical wiring and partitions. These members and several others have put in 250 to 300 hours of work, thus keeping costs to a minimum."Approximately $250 has been spent on permits and insurance -- and even that has all been donated," says Bruney.
The next phase will be reconstruction and restoration. As part of a forthcoming fundraising and membership drive, The Friends hope to sell original bricks from the station. It will be the first fundraising effort since a 1977 dinner dance.
Bruney says his group hopes reassembly will begin this summer with a colorful but productive rally at the site: "Something like an old-fashioned barn-raising, only maybe we should call it a train-station raising."