Sycamore Train Depot gets new life

Published: Friday, Nov. 9, 2012 5:30 a.m.CDT • Updated: Friday, Nov. 9, 2012 11:01 p.m.CDT
Caption
(Rob Winner – rwinner@shawmedia.com)
Sycamore resident Jim Ward climbs a set of stairs Oct. 27 while touring the historical train depot in Sycamore. Ward's grandparents met for the first time in 1898 at the train depot. The building is now home to the DeKalb County Community Foundation.

SYCAMORE – When Dan Templin goes to work, he has one foot in the past and the other in present.

Templin, executive director for the DeKalb County Community Foundation, recently moved his three-person staff into the historical Sycamore train depot after months of renovation efforts with the city to save the building, which has been a landmark since 1880.

Preserving the history of the depot was a main priority for Templin, and that history is on display throughout the building, from the original brick and ceiling beams to Templin’s office.

He works in the refurbished ticket booth, which still has its original window with a Sycamore-Cortland Railroad emblem.

“Growing philanthropy for the future, meeting needs today and preserving a rich history; that kind of sums up how we feel about being in the building,” Templin said. “There are so many people that wanted to see the building saved for years, and we’re honored to be stewards of the depot.”

While Templin has enjoyed the sense of living history he feels every time he walks into the building, the depot’s future prospects excite him most.

Because the depot is much more visible than the foundation’s previous home, he hopes to engage more nonprofits with his organization and showcase the endowment funding opportunities the foundation provides. The DeKalb County Community Foundation provides more than $1 million in grants and scholarships each year to nonprofit organizations.

Large meeting spaces such as the board room and the freight room also are available for workshops, fundraisers, small banquets and other events.

“Our motto is ‘for good, forever,’ and this building helps us reinforce that,” Templin said. “It may give some donors a better sense of what our mission is and who we are.”

And it is those donors and city officials that Templin credits for making the move to the depot possible. City officials used Tax Increment Financing money to renovate the exterior to attract a community organization that would pay for interior construction. The city then donated the depot to the foundation, which has been able to raise $690,000 for interior work.

Templin stressed that the private donations raised for improving the building are separate from the endowment the organization manages.

One donor was Michael Cullen, president and CEO of National Bank & Trust. Cullen led the committee charged with finding donors willing to help the foundation pay for work on the depot. He also supplied his bank’s old furniture, which is now used in the foundation’s offices and meeting rooms.

“To be able to restore a building like that to active use is pretty amazing,” Cullen said. “It’s an excellent use of the property and is going to be very beneficial long term.”

The foundation has started its first endowment cycles in the new offices, with applications opening for the Promise Fund and Excellence in Education Awards. Organizations that work with under-served and minority populations can request up to $1,500 from the Promise Fund and community members can nominate a DeKalb County teacher for the Excellence in Education Award.

Both applications can be found at www.dekalbcountyfoundation.org.

Templin said he expects those will be the first of many endowments to come as the foundation expands in the depot.

“I think the building is a sign of stability,” he said. “We are going to be here for a very long time.”

If you go

What: Sycamore Train Depot open house

Where: 475 DeKalb Ave.

When: 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 2

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