As far as rural northern Indiana communities are concerned, there might be few more welcoming and more fascinating to behold than the small town of Akron.
The enchantment of the place captivates a traveler all along the approach, with the full blooms of springtime trees and flowers, and magnificent historic buildings lovingly maintained. Upon arriving to the center of the town square, it’s there, sitting like the crown jewel that it is. The small, modest structure is a particular source of pride for the residents, built 140 years ago to serve the long-ago train traffic of the Erie Railroad.
It’s the little depot with a very big purpose, and it truly represents the past, present and future of Akron, Indiana.
Lori Tilden-Geiger is a lifelong resident of Akron, and she has aligned with her husband, DeLynn Geiger, to reimagine the depot as a prospective place for their new establishment, known as The Grounded Coffee House. The couple is perfectly suited to oversee this multifaceted project, one that has been a long time in the making, and one that evokes poignant, treasured memories for Tilden-Geiger.
The current site of the Erie Railroad depot is now at the convergence of State Road 14 and State Road 19. It’s an intersection that has seen many business and events across the generations. Tilden-Geiger explains that the property once held an opera house, followed by a pair of drugstores, one of which she worked for as a teenager. Fittingly enough, she often served coffee to the patrons. And although the last vestiges of the old building came down in 2017, the corner still served as an ideal spot for community gatherings.
Realizing that an opportunity was arising to merge their passions into one common mission, the couple began to envision a plan to relocate the depot to the heart of the town. Meanwhile, they began working on unveiling The Grounded Coffee House, currently situated at 111 West Rochester Street, just yards from the new resting place for the depot. And when the townsfolk learned of what the duo had in mind, they were more than proud and pleased to answer the call to help.
While the final details were being finessed within the cozy niche for The Grounded Coffee House, a strategy was also being mapped out, quite literally, to move the depot from its original location along Front Street to the center of town. Last spring, after acquiring the depot and the downtown lot, the couple recruited a professional contractor that had expertise in moving structures. In a fascinating endeavor that drew spectators from all around Fulton County, the depot was carefully, painstakingly routed through the downtown corridor on a large, motorized dolly maneuvered via remote control. The process went so smoothly, Tilden-Geiger recalls, that a glass bottle perched on the ledge of an interior ticket booth remained unbroken throughout the duration of the move. Meanwhile, the ambience of The Grounded Coffee House was flourishing and thriving, with its sumptuous range of gourmet coffees and handcrafted sweets. Moreover, the atmosphere was beckoning to guests seeking an intimate setting that radiated hospitality and fellowship – something that sometimes seems lost in a seemingly hectic world.
As Tilden-Geiger walks through the spartan depot facility, she begins musing aloud about what she hopes to see happening in the coming months. One of the first things that was done to maximize space and offer stability for the depot structure was the addition of a basement. Much of the original interior remains intact, although weathered, and it will likely need extensive renovations before it can serve as the rustic setting for The Grounded Coffee House. The charm of the building is still very much evident at every turn, from primitive woodwork and detailing to the ticket window to ceramic doorknobs.
The scope of the revitalization project will become clearer in the coming weeks, as the Akron town leaders await word on whether they will be granted the designation on the National Register of Historic Places. With the assistance of a distinguished northern Indiana historian Kurt Garner, the entire downtown sector of Akron is currently being assessed for this distinction, and if the nomination is accepted, there will be nearly 100 homes and businesses encompassed in the district. Inclusion on the National Register means the depot project will be eligible for a variety of grants to assist with financing.
While the Erie Depot awaits its beautification and completion, guests are warmly invited to visit The Grounded Coffee House at 111 West Rochester Street in downtown Akron, Indiana. Check out their Facebook page for updates, photos and information on future events.
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