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Railroad depot renovation about to open for bids

By Ann Knoedler

On April 27, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation will receive and open bids for restoration of the historic Green Bay & Western Railroad Depot in Whitehall.

State Highway Projects – Special Economic Recovery Letting, Statewide

From what I can tell from the pictures I’ve seen of the depot, it’s a relatively small, but pretty red brick building with arched windows painted white and a canopy. The original depot built in 1877 was wood framed, and replaced by the red brick building in 1914.

The depot is going to receive a variety of interior and exterior improvements, consisting of brick tuck pointing, foundation repair, fascia/soffit repairs, window and door repair, flooring improvements and more.

But that’s not all.

Reading some of the specifications for this project I was struck by one unsavory item of work required of the selected contractor: the removal of bird excrement from the building.

The project specifications call for consulting “with an occupational medicine physician, industrial hygienist, and authorities having jurisdiction to determine acceptable removal procedures and appropriate protective measures for personnel”.

Yuck!

When the restoration work is done the city intends to use it as a historical museum and community visitor/cultural center. Apparently it’s the only surviving building of the Green Bay & Western Railroad of architectural and historic interest in western Wisconsin and was placed on the Wisconsin and National Register of Historic Places in 2006.

Of course, not all railroad depots were designed as humbly as the one in Whitehall. The Wisconsin State Historical Society’s Web site has a multi-page section of depot photographs. Some of them are magnificent structures with such amazing attention to artistic detail.

I hope a good many of them are still around and kept up.

I’m grateful to those individuals and groups that fight to have significant architecture and symbols of significant moments in history preserved for future generations.

Railroad development in America affected so many lives, and it played a major role in determining which cities would prosper. In fact, Whitehall became the county seat of Trempealeau County in 1877 because of where it was located on the Green Bay & Western Railroad line.

Ann Knoedler is the lead data reporter at The Daily Reporter.

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