History of The Sikeston Depot:
When Sikeston, Missouri founder John Sikes first envisioned his city of the future more than 140 years ago, he knew having a railroad through the community would be helpful to its success. Little did he know, however, how vital this link with the rest of the world would be throughout the region's history and how that history is being preserved today.
The City of Sikeston was platted in 1860 to include the line of the Cairo-Fulton Railway Company, one of the first railroads west of the Mississippi River. Stretching across the cypress swamps surrounding the Sikeston Ridge, the railroad was a supply line during the Civil War. With the draining of the swamps in the early 1900s, the railroad took on the vital chore of shipping grains, cotton, and produce from the richest farmland in the world.
The current Sikeston Depot was built in 1916 and during World War I shipped more corn and flour than any other depot in the United States. Also, watermelon trains were reported to stretch down the tracks as far as the eye could see, and mules raised in the area were also shipped out by the trainload to other areas of the nation.
As cotton developed into a premier product of Missouri's Bootheel and the shoe manufacturing industry mushroomed in Southeast Missouri, the Sikeston Depot saw its product shipments during World War II include combat boots for the military, cotton for clothing, and flour shipped around the world on the Marshall Plan. Inbound 'freight' included prisoners of war from Germany and Italy as well as thousands of U.S. aviation cadets coming to receive flight instruction at Harvey Parks Airfield where the Sikeston Airport now stands.
In later years, as railroads merged and river and truck transportation developed, the need for The Sikeston Depot diminished. It ceased operations and closed its doors in 1986 -- but not forever. After 14 years of abandonment and disrepair, The Depot was brought back to a new and important life as Sikeston's cultural and historical center. Local citizens and civic organizations formed the Sikeston Cultural Development Corporation to raise more than $200,000 so that renovation and retrofitting of needed mechanical equipment could take place without destroying the character of the building.
The Sikeston Depot opened in its new role of museum and cultural center on March 3, 2000, and thousands of visitors have viewed dozens of permanent and rotating exhibits depicting the history, arts, and culture of the area. Now robust and again contributing to the welfare of the community, The Sikeston Depot has also been added to the National Registry of Historic Places.
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