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The Depot reopens on Monday evening

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By Dave Bell

Other than the Statehouse, no other building in Vandalia has captured the imagination of the people of Vandalia like The Depot.

First, as a handsome reminder of the era when railroad was the dominant form of transportation. And, in recent years, as a uniquely themed restaurant and bar.

Then, on Labor Day weekend in 2007, it all went up in smoke. Only the ancient brick walls were left

Gone were the worn wooden floors. Gone were the railroad relics. Gone were the reminders of romantic dinner dates.

Until now.

Next Monday, after more than a year of renovation work, the rebuilt Depot will rise from the ashes.

John and Gina Truitt, the new owners, and other members of the Truitt family, have brought the landmark back to life.

Much of the structure was damaged beyond repair, but as it has been rebuilt, a surprising collection of artifacts have been salvaged, painstakingly refurbished and incorporated into the new building.

“We tried very hard to keep the original elements when we could,” said John, a former construction worker who, along with his brother Mike, built much of the building. “We kept the old cargo door, several door handles, the windows and some threshold plates. It took a lot of time to get the old things ready, but we wanted to incorporate them in with the new things.”

There have been some changes to the layout. In the bar area, the bar has been moved from the east wall to the west wall, and a wall was eliminated to make the area larger.

New restrooms are located in the hallway between the bar and the restaurant area.

In the main restaurant area, booths and tables offer a variety of dining experiences for customers. Many tables have a view out the windows toward the tracks, offering a real railroad experience when a freight train rumbles past. A separate room – the fireplace room – offers another area for parties of up to 50, or it can serve as an overflow option from the main restaurant room. The fireplace was able to be salvaged after the fire.

For now, the previous banquet room in the southwest part of the building has not been finished. A portion of that room was taken up by the addition of an office and an employee break room.

“We want it to be a warm, upscale dining experience,” said Gina, a native of Louisiana. “We want it to be a nice place for a date – but also a place where people can go out with friends. Our goal is to be known for great food and phenomenal service.”

In all, Gina said that more than 50 jobs were provided at The Depot, most of those part-time.

Overseeing the kitchen is chef Damon Bowles. A native of the Vandalia area, he attended culinary school in Chicago.

Other members of the Truitt family who have been involved in the project include John’s parents (John Sr. and Marilyn) and John’s aunt, Mary, who is happy to promote all things historical.

“I think it’s going to be fantastic,” Mary said. “It’s sophisticated, but with all the historical elements, it just fits Vandalia. Anything we can bring back from the past is good.”

The facility will be open to the public for the first time on Monday evening – from 5-9 p.m.

Normal business hours for the restaurant will be 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

The bar will be open until midnight Monday through Thursday and until 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights.