NORTHFIELD, Minn. – Northfield’s last remaining depot was moved to its new location during an ad-hoc celebration Wednesday. Members of the grassroots Save the Northfield Depot organization, school children, and curious citizens joined the media and costumed characters to watch heavy equipment move the historic structure roughly 400 feet to a new site.
“Today was exciting, because I think it's important to preserve the depot,” said Daniel Edwins, who grew up in Northfield, and was on hand to watch the move. “Our efforts to preserve historical buildings like the depot make Northfield unique compared to other small towns; instead of a building making statement, each building fits into the context of the downtown as a whole which creates an enchanting atmosphere.”
While the original portion of the depot, completed in 1889 has been preserved, the 1944 expansion on the south end, which contained a baggage room and Railway Express Agency offices, couldn’t be saved and was demolished Wednesday. The decrepit and roofless Milwaukee Road freight house, which lies between the track and the new site of the depot, will also be removed.
Richard Lange, whose father Elmer Lange was Northfield’s Railway Express Agency agent, was also present to see the move. “I was sad to see the old express office get torn down,” Lange said, “but at least they could save the main part of the depot, because my memories included the whole depot complex.” Richard also recalled working there with his father, catching clandestine cab rides with friendly crews, and watching locomotives from the CB&Q and Rock Island on the combined Zephyr Rocket passenger trains, as well as the big center cab Baldwins on the MN&S.
Efforts to preserve the depot have been ongoing since 2008, when citizens, concerned that the graffiti-covered building was becoming an eyesore, discovered Canadian Pacific’s plans to raze it. The non-profit Save the Northfield Depot formed, and in conjunction with the City of Northfield and CP, struck up a plan to buy property from the city and place the depot on it.
In exchange for moving the structure off of railroad property, CP sold the building to the group for $1. Spokesman Andy Cummings said, “CP is pleased that we were able to work with Save the Northfield Depot Association in their efforts to safely move the Northfield depot to an off-site location.”
Lynn Vincent, co-chair of Save the Northfield Depot, said roughly $243,000 has been raised so far; if additional fundraising is successful, future development could include building a pavilion to an adjacent city-owned transit hub, a sculpture garden, and small garden railway. The organization now owns the lot and the depot, and will be seeking tenants. She said they were “over the moon” with the successful move to the new site.