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Old Depot Museum tells 3-D history of Vicksburg

Dave Benway likes to say the Old Depot Museum shows the history of Vicksburg in three-dimensional form.

From the railway dioramas, to Civil War gunboats to a miniature model of the Vicksburg National Military Park, visitors can step back in time, while viewing life-like scenes.

Benway serves as the chairman of the board and the director of the museum, which was formerly a depot for the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley railroad.

“We actually had four railway stations here in Vicksburg, Benway said, “And this depot served 28 trains a day in the early 1950s — both passenger and freight.”

Benway said the Old Depot Museum got its start 25 years ago when Lamar Roberts, who was the museum’s founder, had to find a place for his gunboat model collection.

Roberts passed away on Saturday.

“When I speak to groups, I tell people Roberts’ wife told him if he didn’t get rid of his collection of Civil War ships (which was the only collection of Civil War ships he had ever been able to find and numbered around 100) she would leave.”

Roberts’ response to his wife, Benway said, was, “I am going to miss you.”

Roberts however, opted to keep his wife, and wound up renting a small building on Washington Street, which became the start of the museum.

Brenda, Benway’s wife and financial advisor for the museum, said from there it moved into a little shop on Clay Street.

“It then went back to Washington Street and then to the big gunboat that was on the North Frontage Road,” Brenda said.

The museum was there for several years, she said, until Roberts worked with the city of Vicksburg and MDOT where he received a grant to renovate the old depot for the museum.

Currently the Old Depot Museum is housed on the lower level of the facility and half of the upper level, but now that the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau has moved out of the building, Benway said, the museum will take over the entire upstairs.

Plans are to move the 250 square foot VNMP diorama, which depicts the park in as it was in 1863, to the upper level and expand the railroad dioramas.

Benway, who has been with the museum for 25 years, said he has built and designed all of the railroad dioramas, and now with the additional space, will expand the train dioramas.

“I am fixing to expand two of the three now that we have the former VCVB offices upstairs,” he said.

In addition to the trains, ships, gunboats and VNMP diorama, The Old Depot Museum also includes a replica of the Windsor antebellum Mansion, Tonka toys that were in the Doll and Toy Museum on Washington Street, memorabilia of Jesse L. Brown, who was the first African-American aviator in the U.S. Navy and first African-American officer killed in the Korean War and the original mail slots used by the Illinois Central supervisors when they had the building.

Benway said the mail slots were found in Katzenmeyer’s Washington Street warehouse.

“And now they are back home,” he said.

“The Old Depot Museum has a lot to offer. It’s not just one thing. It’s a lot of different things that we have.”

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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