From its beginnings over one hundred years ago, the Tennessee Central Railroad was a significant force in the development of Putnam County and Cookeville. It was a paramount feature in our political, cultural and social landscape. Though it ceased operations in 1968, its contribution to the fabric of our lives was kept alive by citizens that cared enough to resurrect a derelict old depot and help turn it into a museum dedicated to preserving an elemental part of our history.
Built in 1909, it replaced the Nashville & Knoxville two-story frame depot that was built in 1890. This depot is notable for being one of only three brick depots erected by the TC, and for its unusual pagoda style roof design. It was often referred to as the “Jewel” in TC’s crown. The building ceased being a passenger station in 1955, when the Tennessee Central Railroad eliminated its passenger service, but served other railroad uses until the TC went out of business in 1968. The building was in serious disrepair when a group of citizens took an interest in preserving it, and at their urging, the City of Cookeville purchased it from the L&N Railroad in 1975, and, along with the citizens group (which later became the Friends of the Depot), undertook its restoration. The Cookeville Tennessee Central Depot was placed on the Register of Historic Places in 1985 and became a museum at that time.