Ribbon cutting opens Clare Depot

October 18, 2018

By Pat Maurer
Correspondent

Despite a cold, blustery afternoon, well over 100 residents and officials braved the weather and attended a Ribbon Cutting ceremony at the old historic Clare Railroad Depot last Friday afternoon.

Betty Lewis cuts the ribbon to celebrate the opening of the Clare Railroad Depot. She is shown with Bob Meister, Mayor Pat Humphrey, City Manager Ken Hibl, Linda Guiliani, Jan Winter, Jill Sutton of the MMCAA and Lynn Feldpausch of the MEDC.

Betty Lewis cuts the ribbon to celebrate the opening of the Clare Railroad Depot. She is shown with Bob Meister, Mayor Pat Humphrey, City Manager Ken Hibl, Linda Guiliani, Jan Winter, Jill Sutton of the MMCAA and Lynn Feldpausch of the MEDC.

The event featured an invocation Reverend Connie Bongard, a history and remarks by City Manager Ken Hibl, the presentation of a plaque honoring the occasion by Lynn Feldpausch and the ribbon cutting, open house and cake cutting followed by tours of the newly renovated depot.

Mayor Pat Humphrey, Depot Chair Jan Winter, Jill Sutton representing the Mid Michigan Community Action Agency, and Betty Lewis, the widow of

Personalized bricks  fill the depot sidewalk.

Personalized bricks fill the depot sidewalk.

 

the man who started the whole restoration project, were also honored at the event.

The celebration marks the culmination of a project which started with an idea brought to the City by Railroad enthusiast Larry Lewis more than 17 years ago. Lewis believed something should be done to restore the deteriorating old railroad depot, which was rebuilt in 1895 after it burned, according to a history presentation by City Manager Ken Hibl.

During his presentation, Hibl said it was a “great community success story which involved patience, persistence, perseverance ingenuity, innovative thinking, generosity and giving…a

Visitors tour the depot’s renovated main floor, which will house the railroad museum.

Visitors tour the depot’s renovated main floor, which will house the railroad museum.

story of cooperation, partnerships and friendships.”
Hibl continued with interesting facts about the depot. It was originally built in 1894 and burned; was rebuilt in 1895. It was a passenger and freight terminal until the 1950s. The east-west track was abandoned in the 1990s and the depot fell into disrepair.

After Larry Lewis brought his concerns to the City, the City purchased the building with the condition that the building had to be moved to a new location. The cost of the old building was returned to the City with a $10,000 donation.

In 2006 the City Commission gave the City Planning Commission the task of

Lynn Feldpausch of the MEDC presents a plaque to Mayor Pat Humphrey congratulating Clare on the depot renovation. Photo by Bob Guiliani

Lynn Feldpausch of the MEDC presents a plaque to Mayor Pat Humphrey congratulating Clare on the depot renovation.
Photo by Bob Guiliani

Depot Ribbon Cutting Mayor, Winter, Lewis, Sutton

Mayor Pat Humphrey introduces three who were instrumental in the depot project: Depot Chair Jan Winter, Betty Lewis representing her late husband Larry, who began the project, and Jill Sutton of MMCAA.

organizing a renovation project and partnerships were formed with the Clare County Arts Council, the Chamber of Commerce and Mid Michigan Community Action Agency.

A Depot Committee was formed with Jan Winter as chairman and because of a commitment by the City not to use tax money for the restoration, fund raising began.

Over the years, Hibl said more than $750,000 was raised in cash and in-kind revenue. “More than 600 contributed to the project,” Hibl said, and MMCAA donated the property that the depot was moved to in 2014.

With the approval of the site from the State Historic Preservation Office, in 2007, and the donations of the two lots on Fourth Street and two others purchased, plus the MMCAA agreement to act as the City’s Fiduciary, the depot was moved, placed on a new foundation and renovation work began.

In 2015, a basement was constructed to accommodate the first permanent home for the Clare County Arts Council. In 2017 work started in earnest on the main floor.
The first caboose was purchased and placed on the site in 2016 and was refurbished as an Eagle Scout project. The second caboose, donated by Ferentino Farms, was place next to it this year, and the work was finally completed on the Main Floor as the new home of the Chamber of Commerce; a home for the planned “living museum of Clare railroading history; a rail-trail head and a community space that can be rented for individual or organizational events.

Attendees at the Ribbon Cutting celebrated the Depot’s Grand Opening. The Depot,

Above: Cops and Doughnuts provided the depot themed cakes for the celebration.

Above: Cops and Doughnuts provided the depot themed cakes for the celebration.

though it is now in use, is still a work in progress with finishing touches inside, completion of trim and finish work, activation of the elevator, landscaping, constructing restrooms and a rear deck and constructions of a spur for PAX service still to be accomplished.

Bricks lining the brand new sidewalks outside the building that were purchased in honor of, or in memory of a special person are still available with funds raised through their sale and other future events to be used to complete the entire site.

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