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Bridgeport Train Depot Museum

Caroline Greer, Auburn University
The Bridgeport Train Depot Museum is a local history museum in Bridgeport, Jackson County. Located in the town's historic railroad depot, the museum is operated by the Bridgeport Area Historical Association, which was formed with the help of the larger Jackson County Historical Society. The Bridgeport Area Historical Association offices are in the museum.
Bridgeport Railroad Depot
The present-day Bridgeport Train Depot was constructed in 1917 by the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway (NC&StL) and was the fourth incarnation of the original structure. This depot was built in a Mission Revival style, with stucco cladding, wide eaves with brackets, and a tower with a tent roof. The two-story building has double-hung sash windows on the second floor, hip and end gables, and a brick kick plate at the front. It is one of the contributing properties of the Bridgeport Historic District surrounding most of the downtown area that was documented by and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
Bridgeport was known as Jonesville before the rail line and a bridge spanning the Tennessee River were constructed in 1853. These events allowed year-round transportation, replacing unreliable river transport that was hampered by shoals during dry periods until the construction of dams downriver beginning in the 1910s. The NC&StL Railroad Depot allowed Bridgeport to become an important distribution stop between Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Florence, Lauderdale County. Goods such as cotton, corn, and lumber were sent from Bridgeport and feed, seed, farming equipment, clothing, and dry goods came on inbound trains.
The railroad and bridge made the town an important strategic point during the Civil War. Union forces took the town during the April 1862 "Siege of Bridgeport," as the one-hour engagement has become known. The bridge was destroyed in 1863 by Confederate Army forces under Gen. Braxton Bragg during his attempt to retake the town. The railroad depot was rebuilt twice before 1917, when the structure that stands today was built. Like other depots of the era, it had segregated waiting rooms for white and African American passengers. In the early twentieth century, the Depot, then under the control of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, started transporting passengers and freight, using an overpass to carry trains over other traffic. It operated until the 1960s.
Siege of Bridgeport Reenactment
After sitting empty for approximately 30 years, the depot was restored and opened as a museum. The museum celebrated the 100th anniversary of the depot in 2017, with tours around the Civil War-era Battery Hill just north of the depot, family events, and guest speakers about the historical significance of the area in the Civil War. The museum interprets the role of Bridgeport in the Civil War with displays of artifacts. Every April, the city hosts a popular reenactment of the siege. There are artifacts related to Native Americans, the war, railroads and train depots, including a caboose, as well as other local artifacts, such as a riverboat. There are historical records dating from 1807 and Bridgeport News issues dating back to 1891 as well as post office and tax records, business account ledgers, and genealogical records. The museum hosts holiday events, farmers' markets, car shows, among others.
The museum is open Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m., and Sunday from 1:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. The depot is listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage, as are Doran's Cove Church and Cemetery (c. 1850), the Kilpatrick-Hughes House (c. 1891), and the Whitcher-Denton House (c. 1891). Southeast of Bridgeport is the Stevenson Railroad Depot Museum, and Russell Cave National Monument, an important archeological site, lies to the north.
Published:  January 6, 2020   |   Last updated:  January 6, 2020