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Crowds all aboard with Depot fundraising

Sharon Boline (left) and Kay Browne look over the selection of chocolate options at the annual Chocolate and Wine event Saturday night at The Depot in Wadena. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal1 / 2
The Depot was built in 1915 and restored in 2008. It is open for many events throughout the year. Pioneer Journal file photo2 / 2

Sponsored by Partners for a Healthy Wadena Region, the Wine and Chocolate event at the Depot brought together a group of train depot enthusiasts Saturday night.

The group was focused on having a good time while raising funds for maintenance of the former Northern Pacific Passenger Depot in Wadena. According to board member LeAnn Evans, that event is the largest fundraiser for the building and is necessary to keep the lights on and doors open.

The Depot, built in 1915, was restored to its current state after restoration work in 2008-2011. Evans said much of the work involved replacing the roof and heating and ventilation in the building. A great deal of work also went into repairing broken windows, damaged tile and wiping away years of grime while the Depot was shuttered after passenger service was discontinued in 1971.

Kay Browne was volunteering at the event and looked over the crowd of people enjoying food and drink in the place she worked hard to preserve. It was a great feeling to see the room in use after sitting idle for many years.

"I love old depots and this place has a fascinating history," Browne said.

Barb Kane, who handles the depot rentals, said she recalled hanging out in the depot as a youngster when her grandfather was a freight agent for Burlington Northern. It was a bustling place, one of the busiest along the line for a time. And thanks to meticulous restoration, most of that original building remains intact. You still walk in through the original front door, can still peer down the tracks east and west through the original windows and run your hands across the original subway tile.

More of the building's history is explained through pictures and notes on the walls of the building. One such historic memory shared at the depot is that this depot is the second one. The first burned in 1915. It's said the good citizens of Wadena stood on the fire hose long enough to allow the fire to get a start, ensuring a new depot would be built, which the railroad had been promising. That first depot was on the north side of the tracks, according to depot history. According to a 1913 article in the Pioneer Journal, plans for a new depot included an estimated cost of $30,000 for the structure. That building still withstands the rumble of 75-85 trains racing by daily.

Partners for a Healthy Wadena Region (Partners) is a non-profit 501 (c )(3) development corporation with a mission to increase opportunities for a better life for all who live, work and play in the Wadena area. The Partners recognize that no one person alone can make the major efforts to improve a community or a region. For this reason, this organization strives to implement its mission by providing opportunities for input and participation to determine how to proactively address critical issues facing the future of the community and area.

In addition to fund raising efforts, The Depot, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, can be rented out for a fee of $25 per hour. Contact Barb Kane at 218-849-6087 for information on renting this building for your next event.

Michael Johnson

Johnson is a graduate of Verndale Public School. He earned his associate's degree from Central Lakes College with an emphasis in English and natural resources. He earned his bachelor's degree from Minnesota State University Moorhead, where he graduated cum laude in 2008. While there, he double-majored in English and Print Journalism. He's reported for The Advocate, student newspaper of MSUM; The Barnesville Record Review in Barnesville, Minn.; Clay County Historical Society in Moorhead, Minn.; Gillette News Record in Gillette Wyo.; Underwood News in Underwood, N.D.; and The Leader-News in Washburn, N.D. and the Brainerd Dispatch in Brainerd, Minn. Johnson has worked as a reporter for the Pioneer Journal and Perham Focus since Nov. 2017.

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