Print of the Milwaukee Road depot by Mark Herman, from his wonderful Minnesota Landmarks series.

Continuing with my series of photos from my trip to Minnesota, today we visit the old Milwaukee Road depot. It is a lovely building, wonderfully restored, dating from 1899. There haven’t been trains running past here since the 70’s, but the place has been given a new life as a hotel complex. A former train shed on the property has also been remade into an ice skating rink (awesome!). The depot was designed by architect Charles Sumner Frost, who also designed stations in Green Bay, Chicago, and Rock Island, among many others. If you’ve ever visited Chicago, it is highly likely that you are familiar with some of Frost’s non-railroad work, as he also designed Chicago’s Navy Pier.

1922 photograph of what the depot looked like when first built. Note the top of the tower that is now absent.

If you compare the above photo to current photos, you quickly notice that there is one big difference – the top of the tower is missing. The original top to the 140-foot tower was modeled after the Giralda in Seville, Spain. This feature was unfortunately damaged by a storm in 1941, and was never replaced. Since then, the top of the tower has been flat. However, other beautiful details still remain on the outside – including terra cotta wreaths surrounding circular windows, and intricate borders stretching around the building.

1948 photo of the depot – the ornate top is gone, and the familiar “Milwaukee Road” lettering is on the front.

This beautiful depot was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, under the official name of “Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Depot.” At that time, however, the building was not quite as attractive as it is now. Restoration began on the building in the late 90’s, and was completed in 2001… and it was certainly a job well done. Some of the work that had to be done on the seven-block complex was not really restorative – much of the area was contaminated and the pollution had to be cleaned up. Today the building houses several meeting rooms, and the entire complex offers 356 hotel rooms.

The Milwaukee Road depot looking fairly beat up. This photo was taken in 1992, before the restoration of the building.


I’m extremely jealous of this wonderful photo captured by Nick Benson… it perfectly captures the historic Milwaukee Road Depot, and the modern Hiawatha Line light rail system.

Another lovely shot containing the old depot by Greg Benz.

Is it obvious that I really liked this place? Perhaps the next time I visit Minneapolis I’ll have to stay at this hotel!

5 Responses

  1. Backshophoss says:

    So this was the prototype used for the Walters models of the station and
    trainshed that was released along with the Hiawatha cars,
    nice to see the building and trainshed was saved.

    • Otto Vondrak says:

      No, the Walther’s model is based on the old Milwaukee Road depot in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. That was razed in the mid-1960’s and replaced with the current facility that still serves to this day. You are correct that they are both Milwaukee Road stations, though. :-)

  2. Al Cyone says:

    The next time you’re in Pittsburgh, check out The Pennsylvanian. My uncle had a small apartment there; it’s quite an impressive building (especially the rotunda).

  3. Jeff M. says:

    I realize it’s a stylized image, but isn’t it odd that Mark Herman’s print so completely changes the building? That lower extension on the tower — which appears to have actually been a scaffold? — doesn’t even exist anymore, yet he’s got it as a solid architectural element on a much shorter structure. Talk about artistic license!

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