|Michigan's Three Oaks Depot is one of the most charming
small town depots to be found anywhere. Brick construction with cut stone
and terra cotta trim, leaded glass windows, and a slate roof make the station
very attractive and durable. It is the kind of station you would expect on
a major route of a leading railroad.
And indeed the Michigan Central, as part of the New York Central Empire was
the leading railroad of its time. When the station was built in 1898-1899,
the New York Central wanted impress not only local residents, but also passengers
traveling through to Chicago. Thus, the elaborate design and expensive materials,
which cost the railroad $3,200.
The Central's empire also ran across southern Ontario, as part
of its Niagara Falls Route. The depot in Amherstburg, Ontario appears to
have been built from the same plans as Three Oaks. The roof lines, door and
window placement, even the cut stone trim are all the same. Another Michigan
Central depot, in Columbiaville, MI is very similar.
Three Oaks is on Amtrak's Detroit-Chicago route, but no longer
a station stop.
The Three Oaks depot was used by the railroad until 1959, when
the depot closed. In 1962, a local resident, Reverend Dryden, bought the
depot for about $10,000. Reverend Dryden operated a book and antique store
in the depot, mostly during the summer months when no heat was needed. In
1973, the depot was sold again, to a lady from Chicago. It sat boarded-up
and neglected for the next 15 years.
In 1988 the Three Oaks depot was purchased by John Keeley,
also from Chicago. He spent over $50,000 for heavy repairs to the building.
It seems to have been used as retail space, rented out to a number
of businesses over the years.
The Three Oaks Spokes Bicycle Club bought the building in 1993.
The depot housed the clubs collection of old and unusual bicycles, and as
the office for bicycle rentals. There was also a small display of railroad
items on the operator's desk in the bay window. During that time the building
was beautifully maintained and open to the public for free. Faced with declining
revenue, the bicycle club decided to move to another, less expensive, building
in town, and put the depot up for sale. Asking price was $450,000. In 2005,
the depot was sold. The bicycle museum was to be out of the building by the
end of June.