August 30, 2014 10:43:19 PM
A historic building in downtown Columbus that is more than 125 years old and teetering on the verge of disrepair has been bought by a developer.
Gayle Guynup confirmed Friday that she has purchased the old railroad depot, which stands at the corner of Main Street and 13th Street South. She does not have any immediate plans for the structure, other than to begin the process of restoring it.
"I thought that at the very least, I could clean it up," she told The Dispatch. "I see it as one more piece in the continued beautification of downtown."
Barbara Bigelow, executive director of Main Street Columbus, welcomes Guynup's investment. Bigelow described the depot as "an anchor for the east end" of the 34 blocks in downtown Columbus that are considered a historic district.
"We are excited that it will be brought back to the beauty it deserves, preserving its historic value and significance," Bigelow said. "We wish the developer the very best...and appreciate her desire to maintain the integrity of a building which holds lots of memories for so many residents of Columbus."
The sale was finalized Friday.
Built in 1886 by the Georgia Railway Company, the depot served as the first stop in town for tens of thousands of people when railway was the chief means of long travel, according to local historian Rufus Ward.
"Easily, easily that many," he said.
It has a long, colorful history.
A man was shot to death there in the 1890s, Ward said. In the fall of 1909, when President William H. Taft spoke at Mississippi University for Women, he stepped from a train at the depot. (The university sits a block to the south.) Eventually, though, the railroad moved on, and the depot was left behind.
It became a restaurant and bar, then went vacant again.
Today, the 13,000 square foot building's bricks are faded. Tall weeds are growing all around the lot, which is approximately 1.2 acres.
Guynup purchased the depot from a bank, which became its owner after a foreclosure late last year. A judge who lives in California, Guynup has deep connections to Columbus.
She is the trustee for Guynup Trusts, which operates Gateway Shopping Center along Alabama Street. But she owns other downtown buildings.
Within the past decade, Guynup has purchased the Oddfellows Building on Main Street, the Parker Furniture Complex and the Alford Drugs building near the intersection of Main and Fifth streets. At each one, she worked to rehab struggling structures.
"This is a win for the city," Royce Hudspeth, a local Realtor who handles Guynup's real estate interests, said. "The depot represents one of the last historic structures on Main Street as you're going out of the downtown area. It is somewhat of an eyesore. In time, it is going to be restored and certainly utilized in a way that will be pleasing."
Guynup actually tried to purchase the depot two times prior, but was unsuccessful. In May, she was in town again, and it was pointed out to her that the old building was still available. This time, a deal was struck.
Guynup hopes to eventually find a tenant.
William Browning was managing editor for The Dispatch until June 2016.
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