By Pat Maurer
Work continues on upgrades to the historic old Clare Railroad Depot. Now in a brand new location across from Clare Castle on Fourth Street, the building just got siding removed and windows replaced.
Once the depot is renovated, it will become a welcome center and trail-head for the rail-trail system with parking and access to public restrooms. Other plans for the building, developed by the Clare City Planning Commission, include permanent office space for the Clare Chamber of Commerce and the Clare County Visitor’s Bureau; an education center for the Clare County Arts Council and a community museum of historic railroad memorabilia and artifacts, photographs and artwork. The depot is also intended as a stop-over and embarkation/disembarkation site for railroad excursion passengers, a return to its original, historic use.
Last December, Rail-Trail Committee member Bob Meister of Design Builders said, “As you know we have been working on raising the funds to move the depot for several years and the progress has been slow and tedious but with major grants from the Gerstacker Foundation and Dow Foundation, the dream is now a reality.”
With the money raised to cover the costs, the 119-year-old Clare Railroad Depot was moved to a new home this spring. The relocation of the historic old depot was finally accomplished in April when the building was moved approximately 900 feet east to its new home on Fourth Street across from the Clare Castle.
Last spring, Committee member and Clare City Manager Ken Hibl wrote, “The depot, privately owned, was in rapidly declining condition, and was scheduled for demolition. Due to its historic significance to the City and the region, the City purchased and reroofed the building to preserve it and ensure its continued structural integrity. However, a condition of the sale was that the City was required to relocate the building due to liability associated with its present location and its lack of public access.”
Bob Meister, of Design Builders, said earlier, “The building is of Queen Anne style with two separate wings and is the only one of its kind remaining in Michigan and one of few left in the nation. The depot was the focal point for arrivals and departures until the advent of the automobile. It was the coming of the railroad that allowed access to the interior of the state for lumberjacks, farmers, and businessmen to set up shop and make it their home, creating cities, towns and villages including the City of Clare. Since 2005, the Clare Railroad Depot Committee has worked toward moving the building because of access, liability and safety issues associated with its current location on active tracks.”
Since the move, a foundation was constructed and the building placed on it and groundwork leveled the area. With remaining funds, new windows for the building were purchased and a date set to install them, remove the old siding and work on the interior.
“Twenty-eight volunteers showed up on Saturday, August 2 to strip off the exterior siding and to pound in nails on the interior of the depot which were left in place when the depot was gutted in preparation for the move to Fourth Street back in April,” said Committee Member Diane Lyon.
She continued, “All (28) of the windows have been ‘sponsored.’ We will acknowledge the contributions with nameplates once
interior work is complete. I would guess that the next steps would be to pour the concrete in the basement and we will need to install doors and siding to keep weather out until we raise enough funds to complete more on the project. We still have a long way to go….pour the basement floor, siding, temporary doors, insulation, electrical, plumbing, heating cooling, flooring, lighting, landscaping, decking and so on, which means we have a long way to go on fundraising.”
She said, “Cops & Doughnuts provided cookies to the volunteers at the August 2nd volunteer day.
There will be an Open House during the Brewfest event on Saturday so that people can tour the depot.”
Window sponsors include the Doherty Family, Cheryl Yesney, the Clare County Historical Society, Bob and Linda Guiliani, Mike Becker in memory of Sheila Becker, Dick and Carol Crawford, Larry Wyman,Jr., Chemical Bank, Talane and Tom Daniels, Cherlyn Seneshen, Carol Santini, Weinlander-Fitzhugh Foundation, Tom and Linda House, Isabella Bank and Trust, Bill and Fern White, MidMichigan Medical Center, Carron Nevill, Jane Sartor-Key, Members First Credit Union, Gerry and Lynn Witbeck, Mercantile Bank and Jeff and Michelle Thompson.
Lyon continued, “The next steps are to pour the basement floor, install plumbing, siding and exterior doors. We intend to apply for two more grants-one from Consumers Energy and one to the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.”
Meister is estimating it will cost another $725,000.00 to complete the depot and exterior restrooms for the future rail-trail trailhead.
Roughly $150,000 has been spent so far for the roof, move to the new Fourth Street location, foundation, windows, and other work.
The Clare Railroad Depot Steering Committee (CRDSC) was formed in 2010 and has 54 members.