The Montpelier Train Depot: In the Time of Segregation
William duPont Sr. (1855-1928) ordered the construction of the Montpelier train station and depot near Orange, Virginia to facilitate passenger and freight service to his estate at Montpelier and the surrounding community. Soon after it opened in 1910, the station became a hub of local economic activity. In addition to providing rail service, the station's depot building also housed the Montpelier Station Post Office and a Western Union Telegraph office. After the Southern Railway Company ended rail service to the station in 1974, the depot building continued to house the Montpelier Station Post Office. Between 2008 and 2010, James Madison's Montpelier restored the depot building to its early twentieth century appearance and opened a permanent exhibit in the building entitled In the Time of Segregation.
Over the course of its 64-year history as a train station, station agents from the Southern Railway Company managed the Montpelier Train Station. The station agents performed a wide range of rail-related duties, including ticket sales and signal operations. They also managed the station's telegraph services and served as the postmasters of the Montpelier Station Post Office. During the early years of the depot's operation, telegraph operators assisted the station agent. However, by 1951, the station agents were alone responsible for performing all station operations.
Like other southern railway stations of the early twentieth century, the station's depot building was designed to comply with state racial segregation laws. White and black passengers at the depot were required to use separate waiting rooms and ticket windows. During the same era, postal services at the depot were integrated because of federal laws that forbade racial segregation in U.S. post offices. By the end of the 1950s, all of the services at the Montpelier Train depot had become fully integrated.
Open from 10:30-4:30 daily, the exhibit In the Time of Segregation is self-guided. Interpretive panels found in and outside the depot address the local African-American community who lived in this area throughout the period of segregation, the codification of laws which dictated that blacks and whites be given "separate but equal" accommodation, a look at those who worked in the depot as agents and postmasters, and the operation of passenger, freight and mail service by rail.
Today, the Montpelier Station Train Depot is home to the exhibit described above, while it continues to house an active U.S. Post Office, located in the restored freight room.
In the Time of Segregation
The permanent exhibit, In the Time of Segregation, is housed in the restored Montpelier Train Depot.