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
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
|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
Street Side, July 2001.
Postcard showing Coldwater depot in Batavia