The first time we drove through downtown Fort Payne we noticed a fantastic looking
building off to
the right, but we had no clue as to what it was. So, we made sure we checked it out on our next trip.
This beautiful Richardson Romanesque architecture designed building was constructed using pink and white sandstone quarried from the local area. Built in 1891, it was used as a train depot by the Alabama Great Southern Railroad. Thousands of people passed through its doors during its life until it was closed in 1970.
A group of preservation-minded citizens succeeded in acquiring the building from Norfolk-Southern Railway in 1985, when the railroad announced plans to close and dismantle the Fort Payne Depot. Funds were raised locally for stabilization and restoration of the building. It opened as a museum in 1986.
Today, the Fort Payne Depot Museum serves 2500-3500 visitors annually, and houses several permanent and rotating exhibits in two separate buildings. Both properties are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can view collections of local DeKalb County and Fort Payne history in the Local History room.
The Gussie Killian Collection, housed in the north room, contains extensive examples of pottery, basketry, cradle boards, dolls, clothing, and other articles representative of the Apache, Hope, Navajo, Pueblo, Seminole and Cherokee. She travelled widely over the country, especially in the Southwest, as well as, throughout Mexico and South America. One of the newer additions is the L.A Dobbs Exhibit containing the desk and office furniture of Lodwick Adams Dobbs, a lawyer, and native of DeKalb County. Mr. Dobbs, who after enlisting in the Alabama Calvary, went on to practice law in Fort Payne and Birmingham. He was also elected to the State Senate in 1876 and served as council for the Alabama Great Southern Railroad.
The Pete Crow Exhibit was created at his request in hopes to inspire the young people of the area to use their talent and work hard to make their dreams come true. Mr. Crow was a native son who embarked on a prestigious military career. He graduated from West Point in 1941, and followed that with a MBA from Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration in 1948. He achieved the rank of Lieutenant General in the United States Air Force and followed that as Associate Administrator for NASA.
In addition to the L.A. Dobbs Exhibit, the south room displays memorabilia from the Civil War, World War I and II, as well as the Vietnam War. The Depot Annex located in the Fort Payne Coal & Iron Building houses the Museum's rotating exhibits along with substantial collection of dioramas by Steve Fiora.
The Steve Fiora Exhibit (Dioramas) consists of three-dimensional miniature or life-size scenes in which figures, wildlife, and other objects are arranged in a naturalistic setting against a painted background. This collection features depictions of Americana, historical events, and stories from the realm of Mother Goose. These displays were produced in the early 1900s until 1935 by the American Advertising, Inc. in the Cincinnati, Ohio and Covington, Kentucky areas. The firm was owned by William Ernest DeCoursey. Steve Fiora was the head designer and singed the majority of the works, but the firm also employed several artists who constructed various pieces of the dioramas. In 1975 the lost scenes were found in an estate in Kentucky and were purchased by L.A. Shankles, who gifted to the Museum in 2004.
The Fort Payne Depot Museum has done a great job collecting, maintaining and preserving its collections for future generations. The majority of the items in this collection have been generously gifted, or are on loan from local residents of Fort Payne, and DeKalb County. Visitors are enriched through the education of unique local history by varied exhibits and artifacts. The outreach of the museum includes programs for historical societies, civic groups, school children, scouts, and other parties. Being the only museum in DeKalb County allows for interaction with visitors to be shared with other local preservation groups. Future expansion for the museum includes interactive educational exhibits, workshops that relate to special local history, and reconditioning the property, to envelop the community while furthering the museum’s existence.
The Caboose Norfolk Southern Caboose, built in 1971 and located next to the Museum, was donated to the museum in 1987, has a great collection of historical railroad items.
Unfortunately the Museum does not allow visitors to take pictures inside the Museum.
Wednesday, Thursday & Friday 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Sunday 2 p.m. until 4 p.m.
Fort Payne Depot Museum
105 5th Street North
Fort Payne, Alabama 35967