Chicago and Northwestern Railroad Depot, Ironwood Michigan

Date added: October 2, 2022 Categories: Michigan Train Station

As the iron-mining industry entered a period of tremendous growth in the late nineteenth century, railroads began to reach the ore-rich regions of Michigan's western Upper Peninsula. When the Ashland Route railroad reached the site of Ironwood, late in 1884, there was little more there than a virgin forest and a few scattered inhabitants. Due to the presence of the railroad, however, the years immediately following witnessed swift, dramatic growth in Ironwood's population and commercial activity. The town was incorporated in 1887. Railroad service on the Ashland Route was extended to Milwaukee and later to Chicago so that soon it was known as the Milwaukee, Lake Shore and Western and, by 1892, as the North-Western Line.

In 1892, after only eight years of existence, Ironwood had grown to have a population of 11,000. The railroad formed a boundary between Ironwood's business district on the south side of the tracks and a predominantly residential area on the north side. The present depot was built in 1892 and opened to the public in the last week of that year, replacing an earlier frame depot. The new depot, as described at the time of its completion, was "...the finest one on the northern end of the road." It was erected by Charles W. Grindle of Chicago at a cost of $18,000. F.A. Weston supervised the construction.

The depot functioned as Ironwood's passenger depot until about 1970 when the Chicago and Northwestern line discontinued its passenger service. During the railroad's most active years, twelve trains arrived and departed daily from the Ironwood depot. During World War II there were three passenger trains going both to and from Chicago each day. A post-war economic decline in the region. and sharply reduced demands for passenger service, however, caused the Chicago and Northwestern to discontinue their passenger service, and by 1981 it discontinued all service to Ironwood and abandoned the line from Rhinelander to Washburn, Wisconsin (Ironwood is roughly midway between the two).

Building Description

The former Chicago and Northwestern Railroad Depot is a long, rectangular plan structure located on the north side of Ironwood's commercial and business district. Ranged with its long facades facing northwest and southeast - northwest on the now abandoned railroad right-of-way, southeast on the adjacent post office parking lot, the structure consists of a one and two-story main depot and a separate, one-story baggage block, joined under one roof. Built in 1892, the structure contains elements of the Romanesque Revival style and is executed in red brick and red sandstone. Through presently unoccupied and, in need, of some repair, the depot is essentially intact and has been secured to prevent damage from weather and vandalism.

The depot is rectangular in plan and measures approximately one hundred and seventy-five by twenty-eight. feet in ground dimensions. There is a small second story space in the center of the depot's main section; otherwise the structure is of one story. The building is covered by a series of hip roofs: tall, steep-pitch ones over the two-story section and the one-story main part of the depot, a low pitch one connecting the main block with the baggage room block to the west, and a shorter, low roof, projecting from the east side and covering a brick=-paved platform, which is supported by square iron posts and wood brackets. The roofing material is grey asbestos shingles.

The soffits at the eaves of the second-story roof are sloped and have exposed purlins. The lower roofs have a plain fascia board, somewhat deteriorated, and wide, projecting eaves with smooth, sloped soffits. The eaves are supported by large curved, wooden brackets which spring from limestone corbels.

The walls are constructed of reddish brown Lake Superior sandstone and red brick. Encircling both the main and baggage buildings is a band of vertically laid, rock-faced, brown sandstone slabs which rises above the foundation to a height of about five and one-half feet. Above the sandstone band the walls are of brick. The foundation is of stone covered with irregular coursed ashlar cement veneer. The second story is brick-faced on the long northwest and southeast sides; brown clapboard siding is visible at the ends.

The southeast facade has three round head windows on the second-story level. These are deeply recessed between squat, sandstone columns with foliated capitals. The sills are of sandstone as well. The windows are all of the one-over-one, double-hung, sash-type.

The depot's lower story has more simple, rectangular doorways and windows, some with transoms. The windows are of the double-hung, one-over-one type. A triple-window bay (formerly containing ticket windows) projects from the center of the main block's trackside facade, while at the block's west end is a stairwell leading to a full basement. All glazed openings on the lower story of the entire structure are covered with plywood; the wood frames and glass are intact underneath.

The baggage rooms have one large opening on the southeast facade, two rectangular windows on the west end, and two doors and a window on the northwest facade. To the east of the baggage rooms there is a relatively modern addition of brick and concrete which is fairly unobtrusive as it follows the same horizontal lines as the original structure and is under the same roof. The open space, or breezeway, between the baggage rooms and the main part of the depot has a brick floor and an iron post which supports the roof. The north side of this opening has been enclosed with corrugated metal.

Originally there was a 400-foot platform that extended from Suffolk Street on the east to Lowell Street on the west. This ran along the northwest side of the depot, between the tracks and the building.

The interior of the main part of the depot contains a train dispatcher's or stationmaster's quarters and locker room on the east, a ticket office at the center, and a passenger waiting room and rest rooms on the west. Many of the interior details remain; horizontal board wainscot, molded window trim, baseboards, ceiling molding, etc. The walls are plastered and painted white, the woodwork, of white pine, painted blue. The floors are narrow-board hardwood.

The second story housed a railroad agent's office. It has wall-board siding on the walls and ceiling, painted blue. The floors are of hardwood. There is a small storage room adjacent to the agent's office. The second story is reached by an L-plan stairway that rises from the north side of the depot's interior.

The baggage structure has three rooms (originally two, before the addition) with vertical board wainscot and horizontal board siding. The walls are painted blue, the ceilings white.