I’ve always had a thing for trains, as I mentioned in an earlier post (see related: National Train Day/Opening of the Green Line). I don’t really know where it started, though I suspect that it began, as it does for many while traveling in large foreign cities where rail transport is as normal as snow in winter in Minnesota.
There is something about a train, though, that gives you a glimpse of a different side of life, one not seen from the road. It’s more rural, less edited. Rails cut a swath through the terrain in a way that’s different than a road, perhaps because their courses were determined much longer ago. With the renovation and repurposing of Union Depot, we are also given a glimpse into a different time.
Union Depot is a historic building designed in a Neoclassical style, constructed with a focus on passenger comfort and convenience. Originally constructed in the early 1920s to replace St. Paul’s first train depot, the depot now supports a variety of transportation modes, including train and bus passengers, bicyclists, pedestrians, drivers, and long-distance travelers. While the depot renovation was completed in 2012, the first train didn’t stop there until March 2014.
The best-known of the regional Amtrak lines, the Empire Builder, was named for James J. Hill, owner of the Great Northern Railroad. Along with nine others, Hill founded the St. Paul Union Depot Company, which built the first Union Depot in 1881 to satisfy he need for a jointly-owned passenger station. Hill came to be known as the Empire Builder for his role in the westward expansion of the railroads. His life was that of an exemplary immigrant who turned hard work into profits, with rich rewards for commerce and philanthropy.
With the updates, the depot is serves as a model for the rest of the country. Built with an eye to the future, it was designed to grow along with innovations in transportation. In the years to come, you’ll see more local and regional transit corridors converging here along with high-speed rail, increased use of electric vehicles, and more bicycle commuters using combined modes of travel.
As has become common practice in new construction and renovated buildings, especially in Lowertown St. Paul, the addition of condo units were a given. Forty of the units were developed, called the Union Depot Lofts, and, as of this writing, several are listed for sale. Before getting your heart set on living there, though, check out financing options, as lenders sometimes shy away from approving loans for mixed-use buildings, such as the depot, or hotel buildings which also contain condo units.
For more information about historical places in Minnesota, visit these sites:
- · Minnesota Historical Society, www.mnhs.org
- · Great Northern Railway Historical Society, www.gnrhs.org
- · James J. Hill House, www.mnhs.org/places/sites/jjhs
- · Lake Superior Railroad Museum, www.lsrm.org
- · Minnesota Transportation Museum & Jackson Street Roundhouse,www.mtmuseum.org
- · Minnesota Streetcar Museum, www.trolleyride.org
- · Twin City Model Railroad Museum, www.tcmrm.org
Licensed Associate Working with Sharlene Hensrud of RE/MAX Results, and HomesMSP — Sharlene, John, Angela