Built in 1854, South Side Depot is the oldest railroad station in Virginia. This depot served the South Side Railroad line, the last railroad left operating during the Siege of Petersburg. When Union troops finally severed the rail line, it ensured the surrender of Petersburg and Richmond, bringing the war to an end. In recent years the station served as a back-drop for the movie Lincoln and television series TURN. The station played a critical role as part of the Confederate logistical efforts during the Siege of Petersburg in 1864-1865. In 2017, extensive repairs to the center two-story block are being completed in preparation for building becoming a visitors’ contact center for the Petersburg National Battlefield.
The South Side
Depot, the South Side Railroad line, and three other rail lines in the vicinity
were considered vitally important to the survival of the Confederate capital in
Richmond, VA and thus, to the entire Confederacy. Thousands of Confederate soldiers rode into
the city and stopped at the facility. In
the final year of the war, these key rail links became the target of Union Army
forces under General Ulysses S. Grant who sought to cut off supplies and
communication to General Robert E. Lee’s army and the Confederate capital of
Richmond – 20 miles to the north.
The last rail
line controlled by the Confederate troops was the South Side Railroad, which
was served in Petersburg by the South Side Depot. When Union troops gained
control of the South Side Railroad in April, 1865, it effectively ended the
siege of Petersburg, and Lee’s army surrendered a week later on April 9th at
Appomattox Court House.
Listed on the
National Register of Historic Places, the depot has a gable roof, a Greek
Revival doorway, Italianate sawn brackets, three bays, and paired round-arched
windows inscribed within a single round arch in the side bays. The original
cupola was removed at some point in the station’s history and was reconstructed
along with the entire roof after the tornado of 1993 which largely destroyed
the east wing of the depot. The central
portion of the building has main and upper floors; each floor has four separate
rooms in addition to hallway and utility space.
Civil War, the two-story center block was former Confederate General William
Mahone's office and the state headquarters for his radical Republican
Readjuster Party. General Mahone worked extensively to advance the
African-American population in Virginia. In the early 1880s, the Readjuster
party achieved many progressive reforms, including the establishment of
Virginia State University and Central State Hospital. By the late 1880s, the
Readjuster's political power was diminished by a reactionary conservative