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Claudette Donat plays Arabella Huntington to celebrate Lee Hall Depot move by Claudette Donat on 12-02-2009

See Claudette Donat's Victorian Costume Listing Claudette Donat All

Claudette Donat plays Arabella Huntington to celebrate Lee Hall Rail Road Depot move

September 9th at 11 a.m.
Newport News, Virginia
Victorian Costume by Christine HallThe founder of Newport News Collis P. Huntington (right) pictured with his wife Arabella, plus a special aide, arrives via Amtrak at Lee Hall Rail Road Depot today to participate in the celebration of the move of Lee Hall Rail Road Depot.
Photographer: Skip Barber.
Cranberry red Brocade Dress worn by Arabella (Claudette Donat): Made by Christine Hall (see Claudette's Victorian Costume Close-ups at Article Bottom.)
Christine Hall All
Victorian Costumes
Christine Hall Victorian Dress Costumes

The citizens and visitors of Newport News, Virginia celebrated the moving of Lee Hall Rail Road Depot to a new site.

Arabella Huntington (Claudette Donat) recalls the day:

The 1880 train depot was moved in two parts and reassembled. The last part on this morning of the ceremony to a new site in Lee Hall. It will be refurbished as a museum with memorabilia of the railroad and shipyard built by Collis Huntington. I played Arabella Huntington, wife of this billionaire who opened up transportation lines to the country. Amtrak had us board the train in the next city to arrive at Lee Hall to a crowd of spectators, school kids and media. This is the first time the train stopped in that spot in 50 years. My performance to meet and greet for this event was an event in the newspaper and TV.

A large crowd turned out for the event with the mayor and VIPs' and children from a local elementary school were there to perform and greet us as we arrived in character. Meeting the kids was the most fun of the day. There was a lovely reception at the Inn there and a chance to talk to some old timers who remember some of the early train events. The vintage car club showed up and we had a chance to see some fabulous cars and talk to the owners who painstakingly restored them.

Victorian Costume made by Christine Hall

A film documentary will be available the end of this month. The actor who played my husband, Collis Huntington, on the right. My husband, was his partner, Mr. Orcutt on my left/rear. The fun part was to be involved in a project shown on U-Tube. They had a video of the moving of the depot. Then the documentary will be on WHRO public TV station at the end of the month.

The school kids all gathered round and asked me questions about my Victorian style dress and attire. A few gave me big hugs and they were precious. A very nice educational experience for these kids. It may turn into several more events toward raising the funds needed. The city needs to raise 2.5 million in donations to refurbish this museum and open the area. Other businesses will build around this as shops and eateries with the Victorian theme. It should be a lovely area to see in a year.

The photos taken this day will be a permanent part of the museum. I also had a chance to meet some VIP's who are benefactors of the project. Amtrak hosted our ride and let us off at Lee Hall. I was one of the first to arrive there by train in 50 years. There was a gold spike inset and time capsule buried for future and the track will be historic to that site.

This is going to be such a fine thing for this area. Years back on visits to Omaha, Nebraska years we went to the old railroad track area where several Rail Road cars were redone into restaurants. Lots of cozy Victorian era shops to browse and cafe tables to sit. That old area was a great place to walk and browse. I think this depot will have all that. That large Gingerbread trim building near the depot is the Boxwood Inn where there was a reception. What a lovely place for lunch.

Close-ups of Arabella Huntington's gown (worn by Claudette Donat as Arabella) Victorian Costume made by Christine Hall.
Victorian Costume gown made by Christine Hall

Victorian style Costume made by Christine Hall

History of Lee Hall Rail Road Depot:

The town of Lee Hall was named for neighboring Lee Hall Mansion, built in 1859. Home of Richard Decatur Lee, a eminent local farmer. (Not a direct relation to Confederate Soldier General Robert E. Lee.) but, was used as a Confederate headquarters and hospital nonetheless.

Lee Hall Depot was a railroad station on the Peninsula Extension of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (C and O) built through Warwick County (1881) to extend out to new coal export facilities at Newport News on the Hampton Roads port. On October 19, 1881 (on temporary tracks laid from Lee Hall Depot) the very first passenger train from Newport News loaded up local residents plus national officials to the Cornwallis Surrender Centennial Celebration at Yorktown. Lee Hall Rail Road Depot eventually became a very busy railroad station after the establishment nearby of Fort Eustis. Warwick County became a rural city in 1952.

Now, Lee Hall Depot is no longer used in the 21st century. It is the lower Peninsula's only surviving C and O structure (of its sort). Plans are in the works to relocate the historic double story depot to the north of the working CSX Transportation railroad tracks... also, to redevelop the adjacent historic Lee Hall Village. Directly across the road from the Depot, the 1896 Boxwood Inn, (bed and breakfast) is available for overnight guests, also offering some meals. Lee Hall's tourism agency operates several attractions at Lee Hall Mansion plus Endview Plantation, and also closeby historical civil war sites. Make sure to visit Lee Hall, Virginia!

For more information, contact the Virginia War Museum (757) 247-8523 or info_@_warmuseum.org

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