Milwaukee Road Depot, 300 Washington Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota

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Milwaukee Road Depot

Milwaukee Road Depot, ca 1922
Milwaukee Road Depot, ca 1948
Address: 300 Washington Avenue S
Neighborhood/s: Downtown West, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Hennepin County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year built: 1897-1899
Primary Style: Renaissance Revival
Historic Function: Rail-related, including depots
Current Function: Ice-skating Rink, Hotel, Restaurant, Bar, Banquet Space
Architect or source of design: Charles Frost
Builder: N. H. Leighton Company

Downtown West Minneapolis Hennepin

Milwaukee Road Depot, 300 Washington Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota
(44.9800503° N, 93.2639494° WLatitude: 44°58′48.181″N
Longitude: 93°15′50.218″W

The Milwaukee Depot served as the head station for the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad.



The Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad
In 1864, Minneapolis’ first railroad line, Minnesota Central, was built. Minnesota Central grew rapidly and became known as the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad, or Milwaukee Road in 1872. At that time, Milwaukee Road passenger trains travelled twenty-five miles per hour with a train fare of five cents per mile. In addition to passengers, the Milwaukee Road also transported mail and freight including wheat, flour, and lumber. However, by the 1930s, the Milwaukee Road was carrying less freight than competing lines and was serving fewer passengers as more people began to own automobiles. Despite the addition in 1935 of a high-speed train line, the Hiawatha, Milwaukee Road filed for bankruptcy in 1977 and was bought by the Soo Line in 1985.
The Milwaukee Depot
In 1877, a depot for the Milwaukee Road was built at Washington Avenue and 4th Avenue South. However, the building was unable to accommodate the high amount of train traffic at the depot. The Milwaukee Road, which owned the depot, also rented it to the St. Paul, Duluth, Northern Pacific, and Soo Line roads. In 1897, construction began on a larger depot at nearby 300 Washington Avenue South. The old depot remained open until construction on the new depot finished in 1899. Charles Frost, a Chicago architect responsible for over fifty other depots, designed the Milwaukee depot in the Renaissance Revival style. The three-story building featured a prominent cornice, terra cotta wreath ornaments and a 140-foot tower, topped with an ornate cupola. However, the cupola was removed in 1941 after it suffered storm damage. The first story of the depot was constructed from pink Ortonville granite, the same material used in City Hall, while the upper floors were made from yellow brick. The first floor of the depot contained a waiting room, ticket office, telegraph office, and restaurant; railroad offices occupied the building’s upper floors. A steel truss-roofed train shed was located behind the building and extended one and a half blocks on Washington Avenue. The train shed was built to shelter passengers as they boarded a train or departed from the depot. Baggage check and retrieval services were also located in the shed and because of this, many passengers never even entered the depot itself.
Passenger service at the depot reached its peak in 1920, when twenty-nine trains departed daily. The busy comings and goings at the depot included vacationers leaving the city, like those who paid $1.50 in 1899 for a 118 mile excursion to Taylors Falls and Interstate Park aboard a St. Paul and Duluth Railroad train. It also included soldiers returning home from duty during World War I, some of whom were greeted by the Citizens’ Welcome Committee, a group of volunteers who met soldiers at the depot and took them out for a free breakfast at the Nicollet Hotel. In May 1942, the Milwaukee depot was the scene of mass excitement as thousands of people crowded outside the depot to see the Hollywood Victory Caravan arrive. The caravan visited thirteen cities raising funds for the war effort and its stars included Eleanor Powell, Bert Lahr, Groucho Marx, Rise Stevens, Desi Arnaz, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Joan Bennett, Joan Blondell, Claudette Colbert, Charles Boyer, Cary Grant, Pat O'Brien, Bing Crosby, Merle Oberon, Olivia de Havilland, James Cagney, and Bob Hope.
Passenger service at the depot ended in May 1971 and the Milwaukee Road Company turned the depot into office space. The building fell into disrepair and was scheduled for demolition but was placed on the National Register of Historic places in 1978 and the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation designated the building for preservation a year later. Numerous redevelopment plans were proposed but ultimately failed, as developers were unable to fund their projects. In 1992, the Minneapolis Community Development Agency purchased the depot, but no redevelopment plans were accepted until 1998, when MCDA sold the depot to the CSM Corporation, who successfully restored the depot and train shed. The project was completed in July 2001 and today the depot and newly constructed buildings nearby hold two hotels, a train themed indoor water park, a restaurant and bar, a banquet space, an underground parking garage, and an interpretive history center. The train shed, one of only twelve remaining in the United States, is home to a popular seasonal ice-skating rink.

Memories and stories

Photo Gallery

Related Links

Downtown Minneapolis Hotels at the Historic Depot


1. "40 Kinds of Soldiers Reached City Sunday." Minneapolis Morning Tribune (1909-1922), April 14, 1919.
2. City of Minneapolis Historic Preservation Commission. “Milwaukee Road Depot.” City of Minneapolis.[1]
3. “Grand Excursion to Taylors Falls.” Minneapolis Tribune (1867-1908), May 20, 1899.
4. Lawless, Tom. “The Milwaukee Road Depot: Part of Minneapolis’ Heritage.” Hennepin County History 41 (1982-83): 3 and 4.
5. Mack, Linda. “Depot Dreams- What will it take to get a plan on the tracks?” Minneapolis Star Tribune, May 2, 1994, page 01 E.
6. Pearson, Marjorie, Ph.D. and Peterson, Penny A. Rapids, Reins, and Rails: Transportation on the Minneapolis Riverfront. Minneapolis: Hess, Roise and Company, 2009.
7. The Depot, “History of the Depot,” CSM Lodging. [2]
8. "THE NEW RAILROAD STATION." Minneapolis Tribune (1867-1908), November 6, 1898.
9. “When Stars Fell on Minnesota.” Minnesota History, fall 1974.[3]
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