Remnants of the telegraph system remain on the exterior of the Belleville train depot that was constructed in 1888.
Across the street from the depot is where the historic village hall building, which also contained a library, is now the centerpiece of the historic Library Park and is used by the Belleville Historical Society. A glance to the north from the depot provides views of the River Street Bridge that is now part of the bike trail as it crosses the Sugar River.
But Hillebrand, the retired police chief for the village, said the depot, with its history and architecture, could be one of the trail’s gems.
Names and dates cover the exterior wall of the Belleville train depot. The building is undergoing restoration but officials are hoping to keep the etchings on the walls.
Decades ago, Limburger cheese would be stored in the basement of the depot until there was enough to fill a refrigerated rail car. Today, Chalet Cheese Cooperative in Monroe is the only company in the U.S. that makes the pungent cheese, but back in the day, there were several Limburger factories in the Belleville area that brought their products to the depot to be shipped around the country.
“I went down there and it’s pretty neat,” Hillebrand said of the depot’s basement. “It’s all stone with heavy supports and I guess a great place to store cheese until it’s ready to go.”
On the main floor of the depot, a large section of the south wall has newer brick work and is a reminder of the damage caused by a tornado in 1955. Older bricks on the building’s exterior still hold names and dates from decades ago. Some are etched into the brick, while others are written in pencil.
“Some of the names you recognize,” said Hillebrand, who has lived in the village since 1974. “It’s part of the history of this community.”