Newly installed flooring

Progress Update, October 2019

The depot site has been a hub of activity this summer. This newsletter reports only the progress since our June update. We are pleased to note the progress made towards the initial goals:

  • Historic Preservation: Preserve a key part of Northfield’s heritage. COMPLETED
  • Sustainability: Reuse existing buildings and materials. COMPLETED
  • Beautification: Remove blight; create a visual community asset and welcoming gateway. COMPLETED
  • Education: Create awareness of current and future generations of the important role of railroads in Northfield history. COMPLETED
  • Build Community: Provide a community gathering place. (coming soon)
  • Economic Development: Provide a catalyst to the development of the west side. (in progress)

So much has been achieved. Community support can now get the project to the finish line! Watch for details in a couple of weeks.

Interior Progress

Painting. Volunteers have completed the painting of all of the door, window and wainscoting trim that was installed early in the summer. The newly installed hanging “school house” style lights and sconces create a warm, inviting space.

Flooring. The maple flooring was recently installed over the layer of concrete added in 1944. The original maple flooring under the concrete was not possible to salvage.

Newly installed flooring throughout the ground floor, excluding the restroom.
 Maple stairs and railings to be finished to harmonize with flooring.

Yet to be completed:

  • Install and paint baseboard.
  • Apply finish to stairway and interior side of exterior doors.
  • Enclose interior stairway in basement as required by fire code.

Exterior Progress

Trim. The final pieces of the trim have been added to the top of the exterior south wall. The original south wall was removed in 1944 when the freight house was attached but was rebuilt after the depot move using the 1888 blueprints.

Lights. Period exterior light fixtures were restored by a volunteer and mounted under the eight-foot overhang. The one remaining original light mounting was used as a model.

One of the six restored exterior light fixtures.

Depot “platform”:  About 1,200 reclaimed Purington Street Paver Bricks were recently donated and will be installed on the track side of the depot.

Yet to be completed:

  • Installation of order board: See 2017 annual report for photo and details.
  • Railings: On the steps of the two track side exterior doors and on the steps of the exterior stairs to the basement.
  • Ramp: A handicapped accessible ramp at the north end at the main double door entrance.
  • Benches: Installation of donated period depot benches; archival photos show two exterior benches on the track side.
  • Safety fence and sidewalk: Addition to track side extending from 2nd Street to 3rd Street for safety of those visiting the depot, attending events, and using the transit hub.

Sculpture Garden Progress

Limestone walls. The stone mason has built three limestone sitting walls and the circular center wall in sculpture garden; stones are from the original foundation of the depot.

Circular limestone wall to contain water feature incorporating 1886 bollards.

Water feature. The metal basin for the water feature has been installed in the circular center wall; water and electricity connections are in place. The water feature incorporates 1886 bollards from the original 2nd street bridge that were donated to the project.

Yet to be added:

  • Plaza: Pavers will be delivered and installed mid-October.
  • Water feature elements: The bollards and water tubing yet to be installed.
  • Landscaping: Over 100 plants and shrubs were donated by the Northfield Garden Club and two citizens early in the summer and cared for by two volunteers. They have been planted in temporary locations for the winter and will be replanted next spring.

City Collaboration

Transfer of property. The 2012 agreement to transfer two City-owned, narrow lots to the depot project specified that any portion of the property needed by the City for a transit hub would be returned to the City. Recently the eastern lot was transferred back to the city for the driveway required for the transit hub access. Additional property at the north end will be transferred to the City for the transit hub building when those plans are finalized.

Public driveway. State and federal funding for the transit hub requires that the City own the land for the building and the access drive. Last year the City hired a firm to produce a plan for an access drive suitable for a public transit hub. The City has submitted a bonding request for the 2020 legislative session for the transit hub building and related parking. They submitted such a request for the 2019 session, but no bonding requests were considered in the 2019 session.

The City recently started work on the construction of the driveway between 2nd and 3rd streets. The one-way drive will provide easy pick up and drop off for vehicles without needing to turn around. The infrastructure for the transit hub and future development on the block has been installed; the driveway has been graded and is expected to be finished before winter.

Recently graded area in preparation for City driveway between 2nd and 3rd Streets.

Summer Events

Since the June update, the depot was the site of two related events on July 17 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railway.

Raggin’ at the Depot was a brass quintet outdoor concert at the depot lead by Fletcher Coolidge in advance of the arrival of “Big Boy” and added significantly to the festive celebration. Young and old were swaying and dancing with the music while waiting for the locomotive for more than an hour. The concert was made possible by the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation grant from Minnesota Main Street, a division of the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota.

Raggin’ at the Depot brass quintet organized by Fletcher Coolidge.

Union Pacific’s “Big Boy” 4014 was scheduled for a 15 minute stop but stopped at both 2nd and 3rd streets remaining longer than scheduled—possibly to give the large crowds gathered at both locations the opportunity to view the engine. One observer noted that she had never felt so much camaraderie with this community as she talked with and shared the excitement with friends and strangers around her. Union Pacific spent several years restoring the 1944 steam locomotive, the largest of its kind in the world. Coming from Wyoming, the train made brief stops in Albert Lea and Owatonna in Minnesota before Northfield; and then traveled on to St. Paul. Watch a video of Big Boy in Dundas and Northfield.

Big Boy at its first Northfield stop at 3rd Street.


Union Pacific Grant. Save the Northfield Depot was recently notified of our successful application for a $10,000 grant to assist in building a safety fence and path between the railroad track and the depot complex. We and the mayor have been invited to the 2019 Union Pacific Foundation Awards event in Lilydale on October 16.

Fundraising. Thanks to our friends of the depot, the historical building was saved from destruction and its renovation is nearing completion. In the next few weeks, supporters will be contacted and receive details of what remains to be completed and the associated estimated costs. The community responded with major, critical support when the project was started; a similar community funding response can finish the project.

Give to the Max. This year’s annual giving event is on November 14. There are three ways to donate:

  • Mail a check to us at P.O. Box 486, Northfield, MN 55057 (please write “Give to the Max” on memo line)
  • From our Facebook page (no transaction fees)
  • From GiveMN (donations can be scheduled in advance; 6.9% processing fee subtracted from donations)
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