The Dennison Railroad Depot Museum has been designated as a National Historic Landmark, culminating 11 years of work to gain the designation. The depot is Tuscarawas County’s first National Historic Landmark and Ohio’s 70th.
“It’s a huge honor,” Wendy Zucal, director of the museum, told the Dover-New Philadelphia Times-Reporter. “When we went to Washington and thanked them for making us the first one in the county, they said, ‘Not every county gets one.’ ”
Efforts to save the station, once served by the Pennsylvania Railroad and later Penn Central, began in 1984 when Dennison Mayor Greg DiDonato began working to save the last building associated with the community’s railroad history.
The building was in decay and slated for demolition. But instead of allowing it to be torn down, DiDonato shared his vision for the building and spearheaded a grassroots effort to save it.
Located about midway on the Pennsy’s New York-St. Louis route, Dennison claimed some of the most complete railroad shops and yards in the country at the turn of the 20th century. As a division headquarters, Dennison’s yards and shops employed more than 3,000 people and handled 22 passenger trains a day.
During World War II, the depot became known for its Salvation Army Canteen that earned the nickname “Dreamsville USA” from the soldiers it served. Only the North Platte, Nebraska, canteen and the New York Stage Door Canteen served more than Dennison’s canteen. Neither of those has survived. Dennison had the nation’s third largest World War II canteen and served 1.3 million soldiers, 13 percent of U.S. armed forces personnel.
The restored Dennison station re-opened in 1989. The depot was designated a National Historic Landmark on June 17, 2011, by the National Historic Landmarks Commission and the National Park Service.