St. Louis Park Historical Society will put city’s railroad history on display

The Historical Milwaukee Road Depot in Jorvig Park is a reminder of the impact railroads have had on St. Louis Park. (Submitted photo)
The Historical Milwaukee Road Depot in Jorvig Park is a reminder of the impact railroads have had on St. Louis Park. (Submitted photo)

St. Louis Park began with a railroad. To further the appreciation of residents for that history, an upcoming open house is planned at the Historical Milwaukee Road Depot in Jorvig Park.

The St. Louis Park Historical Society will host the event 1-4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 30, at the depot, 6210 W. 37th St.

The society will share stories about the history and impact of railroads on St. Louis Park – including the city’s name. Educational activities will be geared toward adults and children, and refreshments will be available.

“In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the railroad depot in any town in America was a central fixture of the community, and St. Louis Park was no different,” a statement from the society notes. “With no roads to speak of, the residents of the Village depended on the railroads to get to Minneapolis or points west.”

The depot, located on the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad – also called the Milwaukee Road – arose in 1887, one year after St. Louis Park became an incorporated village. The section of the railroad corridor through St. Louis Park currently houses the Twin Cities and Western Railroad and could host light rail passenger trains in the future.

The depot itself is considered to be in the Eastlake style, according to the society. The style is named for Charles Lock Eastlake, an English architect who also designed furniture.

As for the Milwaukee Road itself, passenger service ended in 1955. The Milwaukee Road ceased to exist as a freight service in 1968.

The St. Louis Park Historical Society bought the depot in 1971 due to its historic significance to the early days of St. Louis Park. A federal grant paid for the cost of moving the depot to Jorvig Park. It is on the National Register of Historic Places along with the Nordic Ware tower, which was originally an experimental concrete grain elevator.

“St. Louis Park is unique because of its train history,” the society wrote in its statement.

The city gained its name from the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad. The tracks for that line ran parallel to the Milwaukee Road. The Cedar Lake Regional Trail is located in the area that once contained the line.

St. Louis Park was also home to James J. Hill’s Great Northern Railway and Marion Savage’s Dan Patch, the society notes. Those corridors are currently home to Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway, respectively.

“These lines were the lifeblood to small farming communities like St. Louis Park in the days before cars and trucks and highways,” the society’s statement reads.

Businessman T.B. Walker, the namesake of the Walker Art Center, contributed to St. Louis Park’s development in 1890 when he bought 2,000 acres in the village for housing, commerce and industry. Railroads surrounding an industrial circle to help transport raw materials and finished products, the society noted.

“With four distinct train lines running through the city, train horns and crossing gate chimes have long been a staple city life,” the statement adds. “And the rail will continue to impact the city, as plans for the Southwest Light Rail are expected to once again bring passengers to and from Minneapolis.”

A 15-minute presentation during the open house at the depot will detail the progression of railroads in St. Louis Park. It will include information about “hidden tracks” that remain in the city, businesses that relied on the trains and the work of a depot agent.

Maps will be available to view the location of industrial plants that covered sites that have become commercial and residential areas in St. Louis Park.

Kids and adults alike can use a telegraph at the depot. Younger children may try tapping the keys while older kids and adults can code and decode messages using decoding sheets.

Kids can also color in drawings to bring home. Jorvig Park also features a train-themed playground children can use during the open house.

To learn more, email [email protected] or call 952-583-9893.

Tedd Ekkers, president of the society, may be reached at [email protected] or by calling 952-300-0081.

Contact Seth Rowe at [email protected]