FOLEY – Less than four years after it was built, Foley’s original railroad depot burned down on this date 115 years ago, on Dec. 28, 1908.
The depot opened in 1905 when the Louisville and Nashville Railroad spur opened between Foley and Bay Minette. The building served as the southern terminal for the 37-mile line serving the interior of Baldwin County.
Passengers moving into the area as Foley began to develop arrived at the station. Produce from the new farms started by settlers was shipped out to markets through the depot.
At around 3:30 a.m. a fire broke out in the depot. Reports at the time indicated that the blaze may have been started by rats and matches.
Within 15 minutes, the fire engulfed the entire depot, destroying the structure and all its contents, including railroad records.
The fire spread to a combination freight and passenger railroad car on the track next to the depot. As the flames threatened a train on a second set of tracks, railroad crews and town residents managed to move and save a locomotive and five cars.
The depot, however, was destroyed.
Work soon began to rebuild the structure. A new, larger depot was opened in 1909. That building today is the Foley Depot Museum, located at the original site of the train station.
Fire continued to be a threat to Foley buildings. On Jan. 13, 1922, a fire destroyed much of the town’s downtown business district, burning 13 buildings
The new depot survived that 1922 blaze, but would also face other threats, including two additional fires.
In 1950, fire burned a produce shed on the side of the depot. The north wall of the depot was heavily damaged in that blaze.
In 1971, the depot faced another threat. The railroad decided to close the station and tear down the building. The structure was saved when John Snook, a local businessman, offered to buy the building.
The railroad sold him the structure for $1 on the condition that he move it. Snook moved the building to property that he owned in Magnolia Springs. The depot remained at that site for more than 20 years.
While at Snook’s property, another fire damaged the depot in 1985. The roof of the structure was destroyed, but Foley and Magnolia Springs firefighters saved the rest of the building.
Snook and his wife, Marjorie, deeded the depot back to Foley in 1992. After Snook’s death in 1994, Marjorie Snook underwrote the cost of moving the depot back to its original site. The building was moved in 1995 and renovated to become the Foley Depot Museum.