St Johns Depot after Restoration

Track Side, St. Johns Depot, April 2003

St. Johns is on the former Grand Trunk line between Grand Rapids and Durand. The line was built by the Detroit, Grand Haven and Milwaukee RR in 1857, and operated for many years by the Grand Trunk. Passenger service ended in October 1960. In 1987 the line was sold to ths Central Michigan RR. They operated the line for a few years, then sold parts of the route to other shortlines. Tracks through St. Johns were removed around 1996.

The present depot is the third one to serve St. Johns. The original depot was likely a crude shelter put up in the very early years of the railroad. The Clinton Republican reported on November 6, 1868 that "The D&M RR is making arrangements to erect a new depot at the foot of Oakland Street . It is to be constructed of Ionia brick and will be 32 by 70 ft., one story high, with a platform and veranda extending around the entire building. The design is to complete it with all possible haste, and render it fit for use the coming winter." This second depot appears to be a very nice building for 1869.

In 1910 Ionia, 25 miles to the west, got a very attractive, modern depot. Apparantly, St Johns felt they also deserved a new depot, and pressured the railroad to build one. A few years later, when the railroad started fixing up the old depot, the following article appeared in the St. Johns News:
" The Grand Trunk Depot is being painted and fixed up this week. Electric lights are being placed on the platform outside. These alterations and improvements will no doubt take the place of the new depot, which a few years ago, was to have been built. This way of doing business is an outrage upon the people of St. Johns. For years the present depot has been an eye sore to our citizens and unfit in every way to take cars of the needs of a city of this size. Three years ago the Grand Trunk company promised the city officials of St. Johns that they would build a new depot here in the near future. They have made most of the elevator owners move their buildings to make room for a new structure and the people of this city have been given every reason to believe that the company would build right away. Now to have them come on with a gang of men and fix up that antiquated old trap, with the idea of longer continuing its use as a station is an imposition upon the people of this city. To say the least they have their guts with them."

And so the old depot remained in service. However, in 1920 a tornado roared through town destroying the old depot and the nearby freight station. That same year, St. Johns finally got its new depot, built on the site of the old freight station. It  is built of brick and cut stone, with a clay tile roof. It is very similar to Ionia, but without  the portico.

The depot sat vacant and boarded up, still owned by the railroad, even after tracks were removed. In 1998 the city of St. Johns finalized an $85,000 purchase agreement with Central Michigan Railway . The depot was restored in 2001 and 2002 with a $325,000 state grant. It now serves as a home to the Clinton County Arts Council. The city is looking into additional uses that would draw people to the downtown area.

St Johns Depot, April 2003
Street Side/East End

St Johns Depot, April 2003
Track Side/West End

Depot before restorationCentral Michigan RR, No Trespassing Sign
St. Johns depot in 1999

Grand Trunk Freight Train passing St. Johns
Eastbound Grand Trunk freight passes St. Johns in 1946.
Photo by Jerry Struck.

History of second depot provided by Merritt Scharnweber

October 1999, Updated Sept. 2003
Louis Van Winkle
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