COLDWATER, MI

Original Track Side, Photo courtesy of The Grand Hair Parlour

Michigan's oldest surviving depot, in Coldwater, was built in 1850. It was not the state's first depot. It is the survivor!

By 1850, the state had at least 5 operating railroads, all with at least a few depots - Buildings heated by wood stoves, light by kerosene lanterns, and showered by sparks from passing steam engines. Early depots must have burned down on a regular basis. Many depots were destroyed by trains that left the rails. Some were repaired. Others were replaced by more modern buildings. Many depots were intentionally demolished to make room for larger, more modern depots when the railroads, or the communitys demanded better facilities. Once the "passenger trains everywhere" era ended, many depots were torn down so that the railroads did not have to pay the taxes on them. Others were abandoned, and neglected to the time when the roof fell-in and the walls collapsed.

Coldwater is about 10 miles north of the state line in the middle of Michigans lower peninsula. The railroad through there, built as the Michigan Southern, was started in 1837, as part of the state's Internal Improvements Program. By 1843, the railroad had been built from Monroe, on the west end of Lake Erie, 60 miles west to Hillsdale. The nations economy went bad and the state ran out of money. In 1846 the state decided to retire from the railroad business, and sold the road to private investors. The line was sold for $500,000, $625,000 less than what the state had spent. Recessions tended to run much longer back then. The investors had to wait another four years for the right time. But in 1850 construction resumed. In December of that year the railroad ran a train to its new depot in Coldwater, 20 miles west of Hillsdale. From there construction proceded rapidly, including thirty miles of track in forty-two days to reach South Bend. And through a series of aquisitions, the Michigan Southern was able to run trains into Chicago in February 1852. This was the FIRST railroad connection between Chicago and the east.

By the 1880's Coldwater's depot was a very busy place. The small depot was crowded for the arrival of one train; when two trains were due, it was altogether too small! So in 1882 the Lakeshore and Michigan Southern built a new, larger brick depot. The old depot was loaded onto a flat car and moved 5 miles west to Batavia, which did not have a depot.

The depot served Batavia for many years. Eventually, the railroad closed the station, and sold it to private owners. It seems to have been used by Allied Seed for storage. By the mid 1990's, the depot sat vacant and boarded-up, with no paint left on it and a portion of the roof missing.

In 1997, the depot was purchased by Steven Peet. He moved it back to Coldwater, very near its original location. Over the next 3 1/2 years the depot was restored to its original appearance. It is said to be 95% original. In June, 2001, the building opened as the Grand Hair Parlour.

The tracks through Coldwater are still in use, by the Michigan Southern. That railroad was formed when a businessman from White Pigeon, MI bought the tracks from White Pigeon to Quincy from Conrail. Sometime around 2000, the line was sold to  Pioneer RailCorp.


Street Side, July 2001.


Postcard showing Coldwater depot in Batavia

Louis Van Winkle, May 2002, Updated August 2002
E-mail questions or comments to louisvw@mc.net

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