The first Holly Springs Depot was built around 1858, next to the newly-constructed Mississippi Central Rail Line. Due to Holly Springs’ location in the 1850s at the center of North Mississippi’s bustling agricultural economy, a rail line from north Mississippi to New Orleans was surveyed in 1850 and the groundbreaking for the first lines occurred in 1852. This was a major economic victory for both Holly Springs and Marshall County. The first telegraph line in north Mississippi was built along the railway in 1857, and this first Depot building was constructed shortly before the entire line was completed in 1860.
During the Civil War, the Mississippi Central Railroad played a vital role in troop movements and supply lines for both the Union and Confederate armies. U.S. General Grant established a major supply base in Holly Springs in preparation for his attack on Vicksburg in 1862. On December 20, 1862, Grant’s plans were severely disrupted when Confederate General Earl Van Dorn and his troops raided Holly Springs and destroyed Union supplies and arms. The original Depot building was not destroyed in the raid. After the end of the Civil War, the Chicago, St. Louis and New Orleans Railroad took over the Mississippi rail lines, which was renamed the Illinois Central Railroad.
In 1886 the Illinois Central Railroad completely renovated the old Depot, creating a new Romanesque Revival building which had its grand opening on May 17th, 1886. The first floor housed ticket and telegraph offices, separate waiting rooms for men, women and African-Americans, and a 125-seat dining room. The second floor contained guest rooms and suites.
The McDermott family owned the Depot in the late 19th century and early 20th. After the decline of the rail line and the Depot’s business, O. B. Kerr (1891-1958) bought the Depot in 1942 and moved his family and business into the building. Kerr’s descendants still own and live in the Depot today. Gwen Wyatt and Jo-Ann Wyatt Ashmead own the building, while Jo-Ann’s daughter Alexandra Ashmead is the Depot manager and is leading the efforts to renovate, restore and eventually re-open the Depot to the public.
Over the past several years, the Depot has been opened to the public for the first time in many decades and has hosted Civil War events and reenactments and an art crawl called Tracks of Art.
The Holly Springs Depot is the most outstanding extant 19th century railroad depot remaining in Mississippi. It was built in the Romanesque Revival style, with three-bay end pavillions surmounted by tent-roof towers and a three-bay center pavillion with a richly-embellished pyramidal roof tower. The entire structure has decorative brick corbelling.