Progress Update, Fall 2021

The mission of Save the Northfield Depot is to rescue and restore the Northfield depot through communicating its historical significance and identifying a new location, owner(s), and user(s) in order to retain an important part of our heritage. – Founding Document, 2008

  • Rescue *completed*
  • Restore *completed*
  • Relocate *completed*
  • Historical significance *completed*
  • Identify Users [In progress]
  • Identify Owners [TBD]

Much of the 2008 mission has been accomplished! The renovation of the depot building has been finished and an occupancy permit obtained. Only a few features on the grounds have yet to be completed. We are so very grateful to those who have contributed their time, energy and funding to add this attractive, historic, and welcoming resource to our community. It took a village – a very widely engaged community! Congratulations and thank you!


Help us take advantage of a $25,000 dollar-for dollar matching fund challenge, beginning with Give to the Max on Nov. 1 and running through Dec. 31. Our website outlines several ways to donate.

Basis of current need: In early 2020, we were making plans for the final fundraising push—just as COVID-19 changed everyone’s plans. The Board recognized the importance of maintaining progress toward the completion of the project. We also felt, however, that it was inappropriate to compete with other non-profits that were seeking critical funding for pressing social needs created by the pandemic. To maintain progress, we obtained a $100,000 loan to finish the project, which we now need to repay. We met our restoration completion goal of Fall 2021; now we need to meet our financial goal.

To launch this fund drive, anonymous donors have generously pledged $25,000 for a dollar-for-dollar matching fund challenge. Since our fundraising efforts are more limited due to proximity safety concerns, this matching challenge is particularly valuable to completing the project financially. Please help us pay for the progress we made since January 2020 (see progress below) by taking full advantage of this match by Dec. 31 to reduce the loan by one-half.

2020-2021 Renovation Progress


  • Finished newly installed maple staircase to basement.
  • Installed additional bathroom features to meet handicapped accessible standards.
  • Added custom-crafted baseboards after new maple flooring was laid.
  • Reinstalled existing ticket window grating after cleaning and paint touch-up.
  • Completed basement wiring and plumbing; added basement lighting.
  • Enclosed utility room and area under staircase to meet fire code regulations.
  • Installed basement ceiling.
The final work on the interior was completed in 2020 to create the warm, light, and spacious room.


  • Installed custom-made railing around exterior basement stairs.
  • Installed two newly crafted small brackets on stationmaster bay.
  • Added custom-made hand railings on the two track side door steps to meet handicapped accessible standards.
  • Installed the restored Milwaukee Road order board donated by a Midwest district contact for the Milwaukee Road Historical Association.
  • Replicated two NORTHFIELD signs using archival photos of the signs on the north and south roofs (to be installed soon).
A restored order board was recently installed onto the station master bay overhang. Such an order board appears in an 1896 archival photo. The order board’s green and red lamps, and red blade signaled to the train engineer whether or not the train should stop to pick up orders and messages.
people waiting at the 1888 depot
This 1910 image was one of the archival photos used to replicate the new NORTHFIELD signs to be installed soon on the north and south roofs.


  • Poured concrete sidewalk between depot and tracks, and paths through sculpture garden
  • Built brick columns for safety fence.
  • Installed safety fence between depot and tracks.
  • Planted two trees.
  • Added sod and plants in the sculpture garden.
  • Completed landscaping under safety fence: laid pavers along sidewalk, built berm on the track side for water control, and added river rocks.
  • Moved and secured donated baggage cart.
  • Installed two donated benches on track side.
  • Continued work on the water feature.
During the summer of 2020, most of the landscaping was completed in the sculpture garden.
In the summer of 2021, the landscaping was completed along the safety fence.


  • Occupancy. An occupancy permit was obtained once the hand railings on the track side steps were installed in late summer.
  • Tours. In groups of 10, almost 200 masked visitors toured the interior of the building the weekend of October 2-3. The interior guided tour also included large posters of “before” photos and some artifacts in the display case. On the exterior were “before” photo posters and details about the exterior work, and the history of passenger rail in Northfield.
  • Local Historic Site Designation. The 1888 depot was designated a Local Heritage Preservation Site in 1980; the designation was initiated by Steve Edwins, who was also key in this project before his death. Because the depot was moved to prevent destruction on railroad property, it had to be reassessed. In a 37-page document, we provided evidence with photos and detailed descriptions of our work to adhere to preservation guidelines in our renovation decisions. The application was first assessed by the State Historic Preservation Office who noted that the depot was “meticulously rehabilitated” and was subsequently reviewed by the local Heritage Preservation Commission and the Planning Commission. All three bodies recommended designation to the Council who approved the resolution.
  • Transit Hub. The state legislature’s passing of the 2020 bonding bill for the City’s Transit Hub will facilitate the completion of the 2010 community vision of a depot-pavilion-transit hub complex. The 2015 City agreement to transfer the land to the depot project specified that if the City were to build a Transit Hub, the depot would return the land needed for the transit hub, and the architecture of the hub would be compatible with the depot (City ownership of the hub land and access is a requirement for using government funds). That transfer of land back to the City for the Transit Hub took place in 2020 so the City could complete some grading for the Transit Hub and complete the access drive. The City expects to send out bids this fall for construction next year.


At the 2010 community depot planning meetings and focus groups, the public indicated that they wanted the depot to serve as a multi-use, public resource. Save the Northfield Depot remains committed to that vision.

Once the facilities were finished and opened (grounds – this summer, and depot – this fall), the public was attracted to the safe, pleasant area for various activities:

  • Garden Tour. This summer the depot’s sculpture garden was one of the sites included in the 2021 Garden Tour sponsored by the Northfield Garden Club. While other sites on the tour included an artist at work, the depot site included the two sculptures by Northfield artists: Tree by Nick Swearer and Wind Piece by John Maakestad. Background information about the sculptures and artists was provided verbally, and on posters and plaques.
  • Photography. The depot has been used as photo background for several wedding parties as well as a senior photo (the high school student had volunteered with some of the landscaping).
  • Meetings. Various groups held their meetings this summer outside the depot under the wide roof on the west and north sides. Now that the depot has an occupancy permit, meetings are being scheduled inside the depot; e.g., Northfield Shares will hold their annual meeting in the depot in December.
  • Market. From mid-November through December, the “Mercado Local” Market will be held in the depot several days a week.
  • Reflection. Either in solitude or with a friend or family member, many take advantage of the sculpture garden as a place to sit and rest/reflect, have lunch or a snack, enjoy the attractive plantings, or look/watch the sculptures (the Wind Piece sculpture rotates in the breeze).

Celebration – Spring 2022

A large community group celebration did not yet feel safe this fall, but we are hopeful that will change by next spring when the public can safely celebrate the community’s accomplishment: the rescue, restoration, and reuse of the depot! Because we expect the depot to be occupied by next spring, we offered tours of the depot interior earlier this month to provide the community the opportunity to view the interior.

In appreciation of the community’s support and as a symbol of a new beginning for the depot, we plan to hold a ribbon cutting celebration with music and comments from a few individuals representing officials, volunteers, and donors. That dedication celebration will possibly be held in conjunction with a City groundbreaking ceremony for their Transit Hub scheduled to be built next summer. This seems particularly apropos since the depot-pavilion-transit hub complex was the 2010 public’s vision for the site – a fulfilled vision! The completion of the depot and the ground-breaking for the pavilion and transit hub warrant such a celebration

Reutilization of the 1888 depot fits the image of Northfield, a special place that has a history, culture, and community.

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