The mission of the Citronelle Historical Preservation Society has always been compelling and clear; to preserve and protect the unique historical, architectural, and cultural character of Citronelle, Alabama and the area that surrounds it.
The Citronelle Historical Preservation Society was founded in 1977, as an outgrowth of the Citronelle Bicentennial Commission of 1975/1976. From the beginning the membership of the Society has been committed to the preservation and restoration of some important Citronelle buildings. The Society has moved and restored a two-room guest cottage, circa 1884, from the famous Hygeia Hotel. The furnishings in the Hygeia Cottage were purchased with funds provided by a bequest from the Estate of Mrs. Kate Seely.
After several years of negotiating with the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad the Society was able to move the depot from its original location between Main and Center Street at State Street to its present location on the East side of Center Street at Cemetery Road in 1983. It now serves as a meeting room and Museum.
The Citronelle Depot, completed in 1903, was an integral part of the development of Citronelle as a resort and commercial center. Much of the original building remains. Our intent is to preserve the original to the fullest extent possible; duplicating only where necessary and installing contemporary work where conditions warrant. Except for the turret, the restoration of the depot is completed.
The Citronelle Depot Museum has become an integral part of our community and a landmark to the preservation movement in the State of Alabama. The Depot and the Hygeia Cottage are now listed on the Alabama Register of Historic Places and both have been awarded the Shield and Banner Recognition by the Mobile Historical Commission. When restoration is complete we hope to achieve a listing on the National Register of Historical Places.
Dr. Phillippe Oszuscik, architectural art historian of the University of South Alabama has been quoted as saying: Citronelle is among a few American towns lucky enough to still possess its passenger train depot after train service ceased, and is even luckier to have a gem of an architectural example with its original plans to enable careful restoration. The elaborate Queen Anne styling with its picturesque tower was not part of the ordinary small town depot in Alabama. It reflects the status Citronelle had during the peak years of being a Winter Resort at the turn of the century.
Our architect, Thomas F. Karwinski, AIA, of Mobile, has been involved in historic restoration throughout the South. He has received both local and national recognition for his work.
The restored Depot has been adapted to increase the educational and cultural opportunities of the residents of Citronelle and north Mobile County by providing facilities for lectures, slide presentations, art exhibitions, photographic displays and other events appropriate for enrichment. The program of activities offered has attempted to reach out to, and involve all segments and age levels of the community and surrounding areas. It seems fitting to plan a program of cultural enrichment for the present and the future through preserving and adapting a building that has meant so much to our past.
Since the Society secured the title to the depot in September 1983, it has spent nearly $200,000.00 to relocate the buildings, to restore the Mobile and Ohio Depot and the Hygeia Cottage. An additional $25,000.00 in architects fees and related expenses have been disbursed.