2019 is already proving to be a great year for the Nicholson Heritage Association.
Perry’s General Contracting recently began work on a visitor center in Nicholson, which the association has been anticipating since 2014 when it was awarded a PennDOT grant for the preservation and rehabilitation of the historic DL&W Railroad Station built in 1849.
The Nicholson Tourism Center at the DL&W Railroad Station will be its official name.
“We’re really excited, and what a way to start the new year,” said Nicholson Heritage Association Chair Marion Sweet. “We’re really anxious to get it going. Hopefully it will bring some new life to the town.”
PennDOT awarded the company a $1,154,000 contract for the project in September. The crew got started in late December by demolishing the outside platform, according to Dave Perry of Perry’s Construction.
Next, the building will undergo basically a complete remodel, Perry said. This includes roofing, flooring renovations, plus electrical, water and heating.
“I would guess we’ll do as much inside work as we could until spring and then do outside roofing. It should be done sometime by fall of ,” he said.
While the PennDOT Transportation Alternatives Program grant covers cost of the remodel, the NHA has to raise additional funds for inspections.
Josh Stull, NHA grant manager, said he’s been seeking additional grant money to use for inspections in addition to fundraising money. He also hopes to plan a ribbon cutting ceremony once he has a better sense of the project’s timeline.
Sweet said that while changes like water for a bathroom, proper insulation and new wiring are necessary to modernize the building, the NHA aims for it to be renovated as close to what it originally looked like as possible.
To achieve this, the original flooring will be refinished and put back down, and shingles that resemble slate will replicate the station’s original slate roof. The platform will rebuilt at the south end of the building and have handicapped access meeting ADA standards.
Stull said they hope to match the original DL&W colors of red and green as well. The tourism center will also have a small shop where visitors could buy books and brochures.
Only the first floor of the building will be renovated because there aren’t enough funds to cover the second floor, Sweet said, although the second floor can be used for storage.
The tourism center will educate visitors about the town, but mainly its railroad history.
“If it wasn’t for the railroad, there wouldn’t be Nicholson or any of the small towns nearby. Once the railroad got there, everybody moved around the railroad,” Sweet said. “It was the hub of the town.”
The tourism center will shed light on the history of the Nicholson Bridge and include artifacts related to the railroad and early Nicholson as well, she said.
Stull noted how the NHA has a great relationship with the Steamtown National Historic Site and would like to collaborate with them or other local historical societies.
“Because Steamtown is so interested in it, they send people to the bridge, but there’s no place to stop and buy a book. We’re hoping it will bring more visitors into the area,” Sweet said. “Hopefully it will bring some more action into our little town.”
Stull said the tourism center is in a great location for people looking to see more than one attraction, with other noteworthy parts of the area like the Viaduct Valley Way Scenic Byway nearby.
For Stull, who works in Washington, D.C., tourism is what keeps small towns like Nicholson alive.
“I grew up on Main Street and even though I don’t live there now, I will be going back when I retire. It’s a way for me to get back to my hometown,” he said.