Depot getting makeoverPublished 10:21pm Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Behind the scaffolding covering the Niles train station lurks an Amtrak gem.
The $500,000 roofing project being carried out at the depot by Midland Engineering, South Bend, will be completed in a few more weeks, according to an Amtrak spokesman in Chicago.
“It’s a very priceless building to us,” Marc Magliari, media relations manager, said Wednesday. “That building is like an heirloom we want to preserve. It’s a gem we want to keep polishing.”
Gardens are maintained by the Four Flags Garden Club.
The Richardsonian Romanesque-style Michigan Central Railroad Depot, constructed in 1892, was meant to create a lasting impression of Michigan for travelers to the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
The company hired Spier and Rohns of Detroit to design the station, a registered Michigan historical site built mostly of sandstone.
The depot replaced a ramshackle structure the Daily Star referred to as “the old cockroach repository.”
The grounds featured a pond and gardens designed by German immigrant John Gipner, who presented roses grown at the station to women arriving in Niles.
On Oct. 2, 1848, an era of prosperity arrived in Niles when the MCRR became the first railroad to reach the city. Additional lines soon followed, but by the 1920s, automobiles, buses and trucks challenged trains’ dominance.
During national consolidation in the 1930s, New York Central Railroad Co. assumed control of the MCRR. Branch lines were eliminated.
Transfer of freight operations to Elkhart in 1958 further decreased Niles rail traffic.
But Amtrak’s 1974 arrival maintained passenger service and extended Niles’ railroad association into the 21st century.
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