The Architecture of Northfield’s Depot

With a swooping hip roof and flared eaves held up by decorative timber brackets, Northfield’s Milwaukee Depot offers an example of an architectural style typical of many Midwest train stations from 1870-1900. The large overhang gives passengers shelter when sitting or standing outside.

blueprint of depot exterior
Northfield’s 1888 Milwaukee Road Depot. Used with permission of the Northfield Historical Society.
1888 Milwaukee Road Depot
Northfield’s 1888 Milwaukee Road Depot, October 2018.

Regional Depots with Similar Architectural Elements

An excellent Midwestern example of “Richardsonian Vernacular” is the Rock Island Depot in Iowa City.

Chicago, Rock Island & St. Paul Station in Iowa City
Chicago, Rock Island & St. Paul Station in Iowa City, 1898. Source: Bill Whittacker, Wikimedia Commons.


Closer to home is the beautifully restored Milwaukee Depot in Montevideo, Minnesota. This depot was featured in the 2005 film “Sweet Land” and is now part of a railroad museum.

Milwaukee Depot in Montevideo, Minnesota
Milwaukee Depot in Montevideo, Minnesota, ca. 1890. Source: Jim Olson, Wikimedia Commons.


The immediate inspiration for the Northfield depot was probably the Milwaukee Depot in Decorah, Iowa, which railroad officials from Northfield visited in September 1888.

Milwaukee Depot in Decorah, Iowa.
Milwaukee Depot in Decorah, Iowa. Source: Bobak Ha’Eri, Wikimedia Commons.


1917 expansion of the Northfield depot. Northfielders were unhappy with the odor inside the depot after the bathrooms were installed in the original baggage room and demanded the railroad do something about it. Railroad architects made plans to expand the Northfield depot in 1917, but the project was never carried out. This design will guide the planned restoration.

Planned expansion of 1917 for the Northfield depot
Planned expansion of 1917 for the Northfield depot