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Preservation on Track

Richland Center Depot

Long-neglected depot before restoration
Long neglected depot before restoration

As was true for many a Wisconsin community, the railroad was once Richland Center's connection with the state and the nation. It was a vital link from its arrival there in 1876 until passenger train service waned in the 1920s with the growing popularity of automobiles. The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad Passenger Depot was built in 1909, but by 1996 it had been neglected and unused for twenty years. A crumbling stone foundation and failing roof threatened the building. In addition, original features had been altered or removed, rendering the building almost unrecognizable. A canopy, which once protected waiting passengers, had been demolished, as had a bay window and a brick chimney.

Passenger canopy was rebuilt as part of the restoration
Passenger canopy was rebuilt as part
of the restoration

But in the nick of time the depot was rescued from ruin by dedicated Richland Center city officials and volunteers. They applied for and received federal money from a transportation enhancement program, "TEA-21," administered by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. This paid for 80 percent of the project cost, with the remaining amount covered by community donations. The restoration began with a new foundation, built in the original location. Historic photographs guided the reconstruction of the missing passenger canopy, bay window and chimney. Paint analysis determined the original colors, which once again enhance the building's design. The depot now looks much as it did when it was constructed in 1909.

The restored and adapted depot after restoration
The restored and adapted depot
after restoration

Not only does the restored building stand as a sign of community revitalization, but it also houses organizations that work toward that goal. The depot's interior has been adapted to serve as offices for the Chamber of Commerce, the Main Street Program and Richland Center Economic Development Corporation. It also serves as the Visitor Information Center and the trailhead of the Pine River Bike Trail.


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