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Building demolished for staging area

By Judy Reed

The last remnant of the railroad in Cedar Springs was swept away this week, when an old building at 2nd and Maple Street was demolished to make way for a staging area for the White Pine Trail.

“That was it. There isn’t anything left,” said Tanya Eldred, of the Cedar Springs Historical Society.

According to Fred Gunnell, president of the CSHS, the building, built with locally-made cement blocks, was probably never a freight depot. “In my day, back in the 1940s, the passenger and freight depot were about 100 yards to the south,” he explained.

Gunnell said that the building was used to store coal. “Ora Lewis sold coal out of there, back when people burned chunks of coal in their furnaces. You could walk right up there and buy it,” he recalled. He noted that Wesley Lewis might have sold potatoes out of there as well.

Eldred said it’s possible it might have been used to store coal for the trains as well.

The Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad made it north to Cedar Springs in 1867, and remained the last stop north for two years. In 1920, the name changed to the Pennsylvania Railroad. With the advent of the automobile and the Great Depression, passenger service declined, and the last regular run of passenger service ended in 1952. Freight service ended sometime after 1968. Ultimately the railroad tracks were pulled up, and the path they followed is now the White Pine Trail.

The building and property was donated to the city of Cedar Springs for a staging area by the Gust family, with the stipulation that a memorial structure of some type be created for their mother, Clara Gust, 88.

The city has been planning a staging area for some time, and learned in early December they had received a $100,000 matching grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund for the project.

According to City Manager Christine Burns, legislative approval is still needed for the funding, and once that is done, the city will consider an engineering contract and begin to take bids for the project.

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