By Kris Leonhardt
As Wisconsin became the 30th state in the Union, pioneers flocked to the lush pinery to take advantage of the opportunities created in the lumber, mining and farming industries.
Rail lines began to connect the highly populated areas in the southern part of the state, connecting Milwaukee to Madison and later Milwaukee to the Prairie du Chien/La Crosse area.
As the central and northern region saw more and more development, railroad companies began to see a financial opportunity and soon headed north.
Though the first train made its way into Stevens Point in 1871, it would take years for it to develop into the railroad nerve center it would become.
The Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie Railway (Soo Line) had been operating in Wisconsin’s Northwoods before acquiring a majority of the Wisconsin Central’s stock.
In 1909, it began a lease on the railway giving it access to the Chicago area. The move granted the Soo Line access from the Twin Cities to the Milwaukee-Chicago region.
As the Soo Line began service through the heart of the state, it set up shop in Stevens Point, operating its depot out of a small wood-framed building in the fledgling city.
As the population grew, passenger service grew along with it. The Soo Line soon needed something much larger to accommodate the city that was becoming one of its most important stops on the line.
In May 1918, the company opened two newly constructed buildings. To the west of the old wood framed building now sat an ominous two-story building, measuring 80×44 feet.
The exterior was constructed of wire-cut brick. The interior consisted of Terrazo and cement floors, making it as fireproof as possible.
Visitors were astonished upon entering the first floor waiting room, which took up two-thirds of the level. In the center of the waiting room sat a ticket office, with caged windows that jutted into the waiting area.
To add to the passengers’ comfort, the floor included a men’s smoking room and lounging room, both including attached toilets, as well as a ladies’ restroom.
Doubles doors that lead to the train platform were sheltered by a state-of-the art canopy made of metal and wire glass.
The second floor housed the division headquarters, as well as private offices for the superintendent and train manager and general office spaces.
The auxiliary building was attached by a large canopy and became home to the lunch counter and baggage rooms on the first level and an employee break room and lunch room on the top floor.
Population in the central and northern regions of the state continued to grow, as did Stevens Point’s significance in railroad service; however, the introduction of major auto highways alongside the track system would lead to the demise of railroad passenger service throughout the state.
The depot and auxiliary building are located on Depot Street in Stevens Point and are still utilized as railroad offices.
Kris Leonhardt may be contacted by mail: P.O. Box 51, Marshfield, WI, 54449 or email: email@example.com.