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Old bus station gets new owner

By Evan Belanger
ebelanger@decaturdaily.com · 340-2442

Built in 1956, the old Decatur Bus Station on Grant Street Southeast has undergone few changes.

With two separate ticket windows — one toward the rear of the building — its design reminds visitors of a time when segregation was the law and black Americans were forced to sit in the back of the bus.

In addition, its size and scale tell of a time when air travel was infrequent and expensive, and when many Decatur residents didn’t own cars.

Vacated in 2005, the old station has remained largely untouched until recently. As of Monday, it was the new home of Elite Travel Agency, formerly located in Funland Park off 14th Street Southwest.

According to owner Roger McWhorter, the downtown location provides his business a number of advantages.

“I had no complaints about Funland Park,” he said. “But the downtown area is getting revitalized, and it looked like it was a place that would be growing.”

While the Decatur Downtown Redevelopment Authority says it played no role in the travel agency’s move, McWhorter says he and other entrepreneurs are making the move downtown on their own.

He said the location makes it easier for prospective clients to find the business and that as more businesses move into the area, traffic will increase and other small-business owners will follow.

“It’s always a slow process, but I think as others see what we’re doing, they’ll add to it,” he said.

As part of the business’s downtown appeal, McWhorter says he is taking steps to maintain some of the station’s historical features. A painted sign for Decatur Transit will remain intact, he said.

In addition, for display purposes, he is working to retain possession of the old Greyhound sign to keep at the business, and he is keeping the station’s old drinking fountain, which still works.

“We’ve tried to sort of keep things looking like a bus station as best we can, but still identify ourselves as Elite Travel,” McWhorter said. “It’s rather interesting to be in the travel business and located in an old bus station.”

A cornerstone on the structure still bears the date of construction and the name W.J. Williams. According to the Decatur Transit Web site, Williams and his wife founded Decatur Transit with one truck in 1931.

Over the years, the Decatur Bus Station served both Greyhound and Continental Trailways buses. Once fierce competitors, the two companies merged in 1987.

Decatur no longer has a bus station.

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