The Bismarck Depot Preservation Committee will hold an open house Sunday to celebrate the near-completion of restoration work on the old city landmark, a project that’s been in the works for nearly a decade. The event will take place from 1–3 p.m.
In 2003 the city of Bismarck purchased the depot from Union Pacific. While the city paid only a small sum for the town’s centerpiece, everyone knew the work to restore the old building to something near its original state would be daunting. To spearhead the restoration effort the city formed a preservation committee. For nearly a decade the committee has worked tirelessly to turn back the clock on the depot.
After reviewing blueprints for the depot, committee members discovered that it was built to a cookie cutter design. Union Pacific, formerly Missouri Pacific, went around towns in the Midwest building depots very similar to Bismarck’s. Depending on the size of the town there may have been minor modifications.
At the time of its purchase by the city, the town was concerned that it would fall down or be vandalized to the point it would have to be torn down.
Noting that Bismarck is a railroad town, committee Vice President Sharon Carron said, “The depot represents our history and our community. Our troops heading off to serve during World War II and in Vietnam got on the train here. It’s a large part of who we are.”
The committee’s first order of business was to replace the roof on the depot. Carron said bake sales and other fundraisers were held to raise money for a new roof. When all the proceeds were totaled, the committee only had enough money to cover half of the structure.
Once the roofers started working, more donations began rolling in from the locals. People would stop committee members around town to hand them money. The committee ended up receiving enough donations to put on the entire roof.
A matching grant was received to pay for the architectural drawings of the depot. The city applied for a Transportation Enhancement Grant through the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT). The grant was for $145,125. Under the grant guidelines, Bismarck had to contribute $40,000 and the depot committee had to contribute $10,000 from the grant it received from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The total amount for the grant with the local contribution was $195,125.
The grant paid for outside renovations to the depot and a new brick retaining wall that was suggested by Mayor Dennis Mayberry.
The project incorporates sidewalk renovation on East Main Street to allow handicap accessibility for pedestrian and cyclist traffic. The major portion of the project consists of the renovation of the outside of the old depot.
The building was painted in traditional MO PAC colors. A stage was placed on one end of the depot that is used for various events, especially during the annual Depot Days.
The committee sold memorial pavers to help fund the renovation work performed on the inside of the depot.
In recent months, new interior flooring has been put in place, as have new ceiling and air conditioning and heating units. Plumbing is being installed using volunteer labor from St. Louis, and a men’s and women’s bathroom will soon be ready for use.
A small kitchen area is in place, but money still needs to be raised to purchase new cabinets.
In addition to its use as a community meeting area, the committee hopes to put in a museum of railroad memorabilia.
“If you have any railroad memorabilia you would like to donate, we will be happy to accept them,” Carron said.
Carron pointed out the newly completed ticket window and counter that stands majestically at one end of the building.
“The ticket window was taken from another station, but the counter is original to the building,” she said.
The committee is justly proud of all the restoration work completed and hopes more will be done before this year’s Depot Days takes place on Sept. 15.
Kevin R. Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 114 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.