Historic Fulton Train Depot reopens as Christmas market: 'Ornament of the town'

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Christmas shoppers browse Grae Studio inside the Fulton Train Depot at 1005 E. Walnut St. in Fulton during its premiere night Wednesday. Studio owner Crystal Aulbur celebrated the 110th anniversary of the Fulton Depot’s opening Nov. 24, 1911. Aulbur's store sells a collection of vintage gifts, and a variety of Christmas trees also are available for purchase. Proceeds will benefit the restoration efforts of the historic building.
Christmas shoppers browse Grae Studio inside the Fulton Train Depot at 1005 E. Walnut St. in Fulton during its premiere night Wednesday. Studio owner Crystal Aulbur celebrated the 110th anniversary of the Fulton Depot’s opening Nov. 24, 1911. Aulbur's store sells a collection of vintage gifts, and a variety of Christmas trees also are available for purchase. Proceeds will benefit the restoration efforts of the historic building.

FULTON — The inaugural Christmas Market at the Fulton Train Depot opened this week, breathing new life into the historic building that had been closed to the public for over 40 years.

Wednesday marked the 110th anniversary since the depot originally opened.

After serving as a holiday attraction for people from mid-Missouri and beyond, the site will become the home to Grae Studio, an interior design business. The studio held a grand opening for the market Wednesday afternoon.

"We are really thrilled about this event because it is the kickoff of the Christmas market, but also because the historic train depot is going to be our first physical location," said Gretchen Allen, manager of Grae Studio.

The market touts itself as "just the ticket for a heartwarming holiday shopping experience."

Visitors can purchase fresh-cut Christmas trees as well as gifts and vintage items.

"We're so thrilled to be able to open the doors once again and for people to be able to come and actually get to see the interior," Allen said.

Allen and owner Crystal Aulbur, who together comprise the Grae Studio staff, will receive help from family and friends to operate the market, they said.

"The community support has been tremendous," Aulbur said.

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Kim Martin, right, watches as Jake Allen sells a Canadian Balsam Fir Christmas tree to Kristina Bright, all of Fulton, on Wednesday at the inaugural Christmas Market at the Fulton Train Depot.
Kim Martin, right, watches as Jake Allen sells a Canadian Balsam Fir Christmas tree to Kristina Bright, all of Fulton, on Wednesday at the inaugural Christmas Market at the Fulton Train Depot.

Visiting the market

Profits from the sales at the market and any donations made will go toward restorations of the train depot, which is "an ornament of the town," Aulbur and Allen said.

The market will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday through Dec. 18 at 1005 E Walnut St. in Fulton.

Admission to the market is free and open to the public.

Guests enter through the depot's freight house, which the two plan to use as storage and to host more markets throughout the year.

The Fulton Depot retains much of its original architecture and design features, which Allen said is not only important to the studio, but to residents of the area who treasure its historical significance.

Dan Tucker and his wife, Kathleen Tucker, of Fulton, look over the Ladies Waiting Room of the Fulton Train Depot on Wednesday at 1005 E. Walnut St. in Fulton.
Dan Tucker and his wife, Kathleen Tucker, of Fulton, look over the Ladies Waiting Room of the Fulton Train Depot on Wednesday at 1005 E. Walnut St. in Fulton.

"Pretty much everyone in town has a personal connection to the train depot," she said. "We're really excited to restore the historical integrity of the building and for people to be able to come in and see the building in its original state before we begin the restoration process."

At the Christmas market, visitors will be able to purchase T-shirts, ornaments and train whistles with the studio's logo to commemorate their visit, in hopes of encouraging a return to the market for years to come.

One of Aulbur's favorite family traditions is making a trek to cut down a Christmas tree, but she knows that not everyone has the ability to make such a trip, which is why the two decided to create their own "urban tree farm."

Multiple photo opportunities will be available for attendees. One includes a vintage green couch for groups to sit on with Christmas greenery hanging behind them. The other is said to showcase Aulbur's design work and features a vintage truck with the business' logo on the passenger side door and decorations in the truck bed.

The idea for the market came about prior to the actual closing on the depot, which Aulbur said occurred Sept. 30.

"It was a pipe dream," she said.

With the two's outreach on social media and word-of-mouth, they expect about 2,000 people to come through the market by the time it closes Dec. 18.

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Crystal Aulbur, center, owner of Grae Studio inside the Fulton Train Depot at 1005 E. Walnut St. in Fulton, welcomes people on Wednesday to the premiere night of its Christmas market.
Crystal Aulbur, center, owner of Grae Studio inside the Fulton Train Depot at 1005 E. Walnut St. in Fulton, welcomes people on Wednesday to the premiere night of its Christmas market.

Sponsors of this year's market and restorations of the buildings are Westminster College and Danuser Machine Co.

Danuser, whose company headquarters is across the street from the depot, previously owned the building and used it as a storage space.

"After talking with (Aulbur) and hearing her vision, I got wrapped up in the excitement, too," Janea Danuser said.

Before Aulbur reached out on Facebook, Danuser said that other people had expressed interest in buying the depot, but none met the standards the company wished for in deciding to sell.

After the market

Upon completion of the restoration of the building, it will become home to Grae Studio, a full-service interior design studio and future retailer. The studio says it delivers a "tailored design to casual living with an emphasis on enduring style and heirloom-quality goods."

Before the depot, the studio has primarily worked out of Aulbur's home in Fulton.

In years to come, the studio plans to continue to hold the Christmas market in hopes of it becoming a family tradition for locals and those from out of town, the two said. This year's market will be used as a test run, and feedback from attendees and observations will be taken into account when planning future markets.

"We're really thrilled to be able to bring it back to life," Allen said of the train depot. "There's something about it that just enchants people."

In the depot's early days, there were two separate waiting rooms for men and women. Allen said that their research of the property showed that it was out of respect for the women, as the men were known to use frequent "vulgar" language.

The old men's waiting room will be converted into a consultation space for Aulbur and her clients to use as they get to know one another and start to make decisions on what their dream space could look like.

The women's waiting room will be used as the retail space for clients and other visitors to be able to look at and feel the textiles and products that could be used in future designs in their home.

A couple walks on Wednesday to the grand reopening of the Fulton Train Depot at 1005 E. Walnut St. in Fulton.
A couple walks on Wednesday to the grand reopening of the Fulton Train Depot at 1005 E. Walnut St. in Fulton.

Renovating the depot

Aulbur and Allen are hopeful that restorations to the depot will be completed by the end of 2022.

They both stressed that the efforts are purely for restoration, addressing concerns of residents of Fulton who feared major changes would be made to the building and its historic structure.

The main priority of the restoration is the roof, which currently is not sustainable for a business to be operated under, Allen said.

A conservative estimate for costs of the repairs would be at least $50,000, Aulbur said.

The other priority is the platform, which is in need of repairs for it to be suitable for visitors to stand on and look at the historic tracks.

The train typically made one round trip from Mexico to Cedar City except on Sundays, the Fulton city website states. During the school year, students would commute to Fulton High School via the train, and from Mexico, passengers could connect with other trains headed to St. Louis, Kansas City and Chicago.

As a way of enticing donations, Aulbur and Allen plan to set up a brick fundraiser where sponsors and families will be able to make donations to receive a brick with their name, a business logo or other personal item on the new platform.

"It's just one way people can feel personally invested in the property," Aulbur said.

Most of the other restorations are cosmetic, Allen said. The original trim will be restored, and new glass will go into the windows, with bricks from the back windows planned to be removed to allow for additional natural light.

Until restorations are complete, the studio will continue to run primarily out of Aulbur's home, with the two planning to host other markets out of the freight house next year.

This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: Fulton Train Depot reopens as Christmas market, will be restored

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