The first railroad depot was prompted by the 1877 decision by the Northern Pacific (NP) Railway's management to resume construction of its main northern branchline west to the Yellowstone River near Glendive MT. Administrative offices and a passenger depot would be required.
Under the direction of General Thomas Rosser (of Fort Lincoln fame), the one-story 24-feet by 70-feet structure was constructed including its gable roof and a surrounding 12-foot platform. Three years later, this depot was retasked as a freight storage building and a new depot was built. The first depot turned warehouse was later sold in 1912 and moved from the site.
Second NP Railway Depot c. 1909
The second depot was designed by McKim, Mead and White after completing the NYC mansion of NP president Henry Villard. It was 100-feet long and 32-feet wide. The brick first floor was topped with a wood framed-second floor complete with hipped wall-dormers for the windows. A cupola with a bell-shaped roof topped the building. The Queen Anne style building was surrounded by an 8-foot platform supported by ornate iron pillers. The depot was completed in Fall 1882 at a cost of $12,000.
Housed on the second floor was the Western Union office where nine telegraph operators were on duty 24-hours a day. In all, the building was described as the finest depot on this side of St. Paul. East of the depot was a plain one-story building housing the dinning room and lunch counter; commonly referred to as "the beanery."
However 40 years later, the building started to show its age. When a new depot was built in Bismarck, local business leaders lobbied the Railroad to replace the Mandan depot. A major fire in June 1920, caused by defective electrical wiring, destroyed the entire wood second story of the building. Furniture, tickets and records were rescued from the first floor, but the contents of the telegraph, yardmaster, roadmster and trainmaster offices on the second floor were completely destroyed. Temporary offices were set up in extra caboose cars parked on sidings east of the beanery. Since the Railroad was loosing money at the time, it decided just to rebuild the second floor with a very plain design. After receiving a new coat of paint, the line operated with this depot until 1929.
Chief Engineer Howard Stevens made a bold move and proposed replacing the existing lunchroom and depot with a series of 3 buildings based on a brick colonial design. It was unlike any exsting NP deport in the country. Despite also being presented with a more traditional NP depot design, the Board of Directors approved the new design.
For a bid price of $61,342, the Steen Company of Grand Forks built the current depot. It was constructed just north of the old one. After the dedication in February 1930, the old depot and lunchroom were demolished and new tracks and a platform were built in its place.
Only the depot and beanery were ever built, with the railroad opting to move the offices destined for the third building to open space in an existing freight house south of Main Street. After the final passenger train service was terminated in 1979, buildings were turned over to the City. In 1992, both the depot and beanery were remodeled and subsequently leased to area business. The depot is currently occupied by Five Nations Galley & Gift and the Fort Abraham Lincoln Foundation.
In July 2008, the Mandan Historical Society moved its museum to a larger space in the west end of the former lunchroom/beanery building. Other joint tenants of the building include the Mandan Progress Organization and the Mandan Art Association.
The MHSoc's museum and office is located at 411 W Main St, Mandan, ND 58554 Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave message at (701) 751-2983