Niota Depot or Mouse Creek Depot Main Street Niota, built 1854
Photograph from Southeast Tennessee Tourism
The Niota, or Mouse Creek Depot, located along the tracks of the Southern
Railroad Company in Niota, is a rectangular brick building 112 feet by 42 feet with a cantilevered 8 feet overhang on all sides. The hipped roof, which was originally covered with wooden shingles, was covered with orange tiles around 1900.
The west, or front elevation, has a door and three windows, each having four large panes. The east elevation has only one opening, a large double door of batten construction for loading purposes. The north and south elevations are similar, each having a door with transom, two windows similar to those on the front, and three of the large double batten doors for loading. The interior of the building has a small office area, waiting room, and warehouse space.
The depot was built in 1854, and was in continuous use until July 4, 1972. During the Civil War, some bricks were removed from the walls to form gun ports to allow the depot to be used as a fort, if the need arose. Fortunately, only skirmishes occurred along the railroad tracks in Mouse Creek and the Depot was not damaged. Other than the roof, and the removal of the loading docks, the building remains unchanged since its original
construction. Following its closing, the interior furnishings have been removed, and the building is showing deterioration. It is now being restored.
On November 21, 1835, a bill was Introduced in the state legislature providing for a general system of internal improvements in the State of Tennessee, and included in this report was a letter from General Edmund Pendleton Gaines in which he stated that the area around Athens in McMinn County would be well suited for a railroad extending to the point in Georgia where the Atlantic and Mississippi Railroad was to cross the Coosa River.
On February 19, 1836, the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee passed an act to incorporate the Hiwassee Railroad Company, which was to build a line from Knoxville to a point on the southern boundary of the state to intersect with the railroad from Augusta to Memphis. This was the first railroad project in Tennessee upon which actual construction work was done.
Following survey work and land acquisition, grading began in late 1837. After about 65 miles of grading the work was discontinued due to financial difficulties, and the company went into bankruptcy in 1842. Work was then continued by the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad and the railroad reached Mouse Creek, now Niota, in February, 1852.
Work began on the depot in 1854 and was opened in April, 1855. It is believed to
be the oldest standing depot in Tennessee.
In mid-June, 1855, 18 years after the contract was let for the first construction work on the original Hiwassee Railroad, the first train ever to reach Knoxville arrived there over the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad. In 1869, the line became known as the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad, and in 1894 it was acquired by the Southern Railroad Company which operated it until the depot was closed in July, 1972. The railroad recently deeded the property to the City of Niota, upon the request of interested citizens in the area who are interested in the preservation of the depot. A commission has been formed to explore the possibilities of developing the building into a museum to interpret the railroad history of the area. Some city offices may also be located in the building.
The Niota Depot is very significant not only because it is probably the oldest standing railroad depot in Tennessee, but also because of its part in the development of the area by the railroad, the first to be begun in the state.