Former train station gets new life
© Darrell Cole - Amherst Daily News
Members of Amherst town council joined with local artisans on Monday to announce the opening of a new artisans' gallery in the former Via Rail train station.
AMHERST – An historic downtown property has a new purpose.
Amherst is joining forces with local artisans to reopen the former Via Rail train station as a gallery.
The Amherst Train Station Artisans Gallery is expected to open July 16 and operate each Tuesday to Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m.
“We have a home. We needed this,” said John Warner, who is one of at least 20 artisans who will showcase their talents in the heritage building.
The train station, that opened in 1906 to service the Inter-Colonial Railway, closed last October with the building’s final tenant leaving in late April.
Via Rail still stops at the Amherst station, but the building is not open for passengers or for those wanting to purchase tickets.
Amherst Mayor Robert Small said the town had been looking for options for the former train station for several months so it could remain a vibrant part of the community. The last thing council wanted, he said, was for the station to remain vacant or fall into disrepair.
He also thanked Via Rail for its willingness to consider a community option for the station.
“All members of town council are supporting this four-month pilot project to get an understanding if there’s an interest and demand for artisans’ work in the town and is there a willingness among the artisans to organize themselves so they can operate a facility,” the mayor said. “This is a test to see if this can work in town.”
For several years, former Amherst town councillor Robert Angel had been pushing for the creation of a visitor information centre and artisans’ gallery in the former Petro-Canada station on Albion Street. The town recently sold the former service station to Allan MacEachern for use as an insurance office.
Small said it considered Angel’s idea, but knowing the train station was vacant he felt it made sense to locate the gallery there.
The mayor said the town is leasing the station from Via Rail for $600 a month. In October, the town will make a decision on whether to renew the lease or look at other options including purchasing it.
The town will also meet with the artisans in the fall to evaluate their experience.
“This is a heritage property and it’s good to see it get another life,” the mayor said.
Artisan Ted Evans said the response from the arts community has been very positive. He said using the train station as an art gallery is a good fit.
“Everyone we’ve contacted is on board, it’s something we’ve been waiting for for a long time,” Evans said.