The Godbold Transportation Center, opened in 2011, is located in the city's former power plant. The renovation project preserved the building's handsome brickwork and soaring smokestack.
440 North Railroad Avenue Godbold Transportation Center Brookhaven, MS 39601
- Annual Station Revenue (2013)
- Annual Station Ridership (2013)
|Facility Ownership||City of Brookhaven|
|Parking Lot Ownership||City of Brookhaven|
|Platform Ownership||Canadian National Illinois Central Railroad|
|Track Ownership||Canadian National Illinois Central Railroad|
|10 Long Term Parking Spaces||10 Short Term Parking Spaces||Accessible Platform|
|Accessible Restrooms||Accessible Waiting Room||Dedicated Parking|
|Enclosed Waiting Area|
- City of New Orleans
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Located a few blocks north of the historic downtown, the Godbold Transportation Center—a project more than a decade in the making—opened to the public in August 2011. Prior to moving to the new facility, Amtrak passengers used a small shelter adjacent to the former Illinois Central Railroad (ICRR) depot a few blocks to the south.
The completion of a new multimodal center in Meridian, Miss., in 1997 inspired Brookhaven Mayor Bill Godbold to push for the construction of a similar facility that would provide intercity passenger rail and bus riders with a welcoming, climate-controlled waiting area and other amenities. The concept was approved in 1999 and city officials sought funding for the project, which originally included the transportation center as well as space for retail and cultural functions. Between 2001 and 2003, Brookhaven won three grants totaling $3,947,701 through the Federal Transit Administration’s Bus and Bus Facilities program. According to program requirements, the city had to provide a 20 percent match in order to use the federal funds.
Concerns over the budget caused the city to scale back plans in 2005 to include only the transportation center. By doing so, the local match for the federal funds could be covered by the value of the city-owned land already set aside for the facility. Rather than construct a new building, the aldermen voted to rehabilitate the former municipal power plant, which was abandoned but structurally sound and located close to the tracks. The cost of transforming the industrial building into a transportation hub was estimated at $1.27 million, and it was hoped that it would spur private development on nearby parcels. Due to the site’s former industrial uses, minor environmental remediation work was required to remove soil contaminated by oil.
Jackson, Miss.-based architect Michael Barranco drew up plans for the transportation center. Known for his interest in New Urbanism—a planning movement that emphasizes the creation of walkable, mixed-use communities rooted in traditional design principles—Barranco was also instrumental in the creation of the Mississippi Renewal Forum. Established in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, it brought together community and design professionals to discuss and plan for the revival of the Mississippi coast.
The resulting design called for partial demolition of the red brick power plant, which dates to 1890. The remaining portion features handsome original brickwork—including stylized architectural elements such as a water table, cornice, and pilasters—that elevated the building above its utilitarian function as a power plant. The soaring smokestack remains standing and acts as a visual reference point that also reminds visitors of the building’s industrial heritage. During the rehabilitation work, crews discovered two plaques containing information about the construction of the power plant; that at some point in the past had been covered up by a brick wall. They were removed and will be reinstalled along with a new plaque commemorating the opening of the transportation center.
Large expanses of glass on the principal elevations allow natural light to flood the waiting room, whose bright and airy atmosphere is further enhanced by high ceilings, a coat of warm yellow paint on the brick and cinderblock walls, and delicate birch veneer wood paneling installed on the wall above the ticket window. Wooden benches are a tangible link to Brookhaven’s rich railroad heritage—they were once installed in the city’s historic ICRR depot. Around the base of the building, the town’s Community Appearance Committee installed shrubs and flowers.
Trackside, construction crews built a 400’ concrete platform with tactile edging. A gabled canopy rising from brick piers protects passengers from inclement weather while they wait outside for the arrival of the train. Canopies were also installed over the station’s western and southern entrances that lead to the platform and parking lot, respectively. The design and installation of the platform was delayed for a number of years until the Federal Railroad Administration and the Canadian National Railway (which purchased the ICRR in 1998) could agree on its height.
The people of Brookhaven celebrated the opening of the train station during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on August 17, 2011. The process, which took 12 years and was shepherded by three mayors, is a testament to the persistence and patience of city leaders. The facility was named the Godbold Transportation Center in honor of former Mayor Bill Godbold, who died in 2010 before its completion. A photo of Godbold and his parents—both of whom also served as city mayor—hangs in the building. The arrival of the southbound City of New Orleans, making its first stop at the new transportation center, closed the ceremony on a high point. Under an arrangement made with Amtrak, Brookhaven police officers open the station before the arrival of the trains and close it after their departures. Monies not used in the rehabilitation were returned to the federal government.
Brookhaven, the seat of Lincoln County, developed slowly as settlers migrated from the eastern United States. Lacking proximity to a commercially navigable river, much of the region’s transportation relied upon rafts and shallow draught vessels in local waterways and upon narrow trails. The intersection of the Bogue Chitto River and an old American Indian trail, located southeast of Brookhaven, saw some of the region’s first development, in the form of the Old Brook trading post. The site of Brookhaven was reportedly named in 1818 in recognition of founder Samuel Jayne, who hailed from a town of the same name located on Long Island, N.Y. The region remained vested in the plantation system throughout the early years of settlement; the lack of viable transportation meant there was no accessible market for the resources of the region, limiting all enterprises to subsistence ventures.
During the 1850s, the plan of the New Orleans, Jackson, and Great Northern Railroad to create a continuous rail line from New Orleans to Jackson became public knowledge. The owner of the Old Brook settlement was hostile to the presence of a railroad right-of-way, while the residents of Brookhaven welcomed the railroad and the advantages it represented. The company agreed to build through Brookhaven; when the railroad was completed in 1858, the town consisted of no more than a dozen wooden houses. Between the railroad’s completion and the start of the Civil War, the access to major markets that the railroad offered drew attention to the region. Cotton production increased and lumber and brick production began in earnest. Shops, saloons, stables, and boarding houses opened, along with Whitworth College, one of the nation’s first four-year institutes of higher learning for women.
With Mississippi’s 1861 succession from the United States, the Civil War came to Brookhaven. Three companies of Brookhaven residents were sent into battle, and Whitworth College was converted into a military hospital and training facility. On April 29, 1863, the town was attacked by Grierson’s Raiders, a Union Cavalry force composed of three regiments that spent 16 days slashing through Confederate territory to create a diversion for General Ulysses Grant’s Vicksburg campaign. In Brookhaven, the raiders destroyed the town’s training facilities, and took prisoner the town’s Confederate soldiers. The raiders also cut the telegraph lines, destroyed rails by bending them into “Sherman’s neckties” and burned depots, water towers, and bridges. These measures rendered the railroad impassable until repairs were completed following the war in 1867. The years after the war saw a boom in demand for yellow pine, leading to the opening of several dozen sawmills in the area that annually shipped more than 10,000 carloads of lumber.
In 1887 the fortunes of the town changed. A local option (prohibition) controversy led to political disagreement that hurt the community’s economy while a vigilante organization terrorized the area and threatened governmental authority. Perhaps worse, the cotton market depressed significantly. The state was forced to suspend Brookhaven’s charter for five years and place the municipal government under direct gubernatorial control.
By the turn of the century, Brookhaven had surpassed its prior difficulties, and was again prosperous thanks to the growth of the timber industry. In 1908, the combined output of Brookhaven and the adjoining town of Pearlhaven was 400,000 feet of lumber daily. The community was served by three banks and two newspapers. A public library and hospital were established, and Whitworth College grew to more than 200 students.
Brookhaven also became a hub between the Illinois Central mainline (formerly the New Orleans, Jackson, and Great Northern), the Brookhaven and Pearl River Railroad, the Mississippi Central, and the Meridian, Brookhaven, and Natchez Railroad. In 1907, the ICRR constructed a depot and freight house in downtown Brookhaven. Designed by F. D. Chase, the brick buildings exhibit Tudor-revival influences. In 1980, the station was placed on the National Register of Historic Places due to the significant role that the railroad has played in the history of Brookhaven.
At the dawn of the 21st century, Brookhaven underwent several changes. It tripled in size through the annexation of neighboring towns, and Whitworth College was reopened as the Mississippi School of the Arts. Every year, the town hosts the popular Ole Brook Festival, which includes arts and crafts, live music, a food court, and kids’ area.
Amtrak does not offer ticketing or baggage services at this facility, which is served by two daily trains.