Eagle River exists as it does today because of the once burgeoning railway that came to the Northwoods – specifically to the Train Depot at 116 S. Railroad Street. No longer operating as a true train depot, the Eagle River Historical Society now operates it as a museum with fascinating local history, including about the depot itself.
Here’s some fun history: The train depot turns 100 years old this year. Eagle River Historical Society Executive Director Karen Sailer is ready to celebrate the impressive milestone. On June 30, she says the train depot will host an outdoor community event that will include government officials, a newly refurbished gift shop with heritage toys, food, drinks (including a Centennial Bock from local Tribute Brewing Co.), games for all ages, and more.
The current depot was built in the summer of 1923 after the original train depot burned down after serving the lumber industry and growing tourism industry for four decades. The Chicago and North Western Transportation Company built the railways to the Eagle River area to bring lumber down to the Chicago area. Lumber workers and train staff soon spread word of the clean air, clear waters full of fish, good hunting, and gorgeous country Up North. It wasn’t long before the train company began marketing the area for tourism and selling tickets to the Eagle River area.
When roads improved and the automobile took over, train use faded. Passenger trains stopped coming to the area in the 1960s, the final freight engine whistle blew in Eagle River sometime in the 1970s, and the rail was torn out in 1982.
The city used it for some time, becoming a de facto city hall and law enforcement office, as well as housing the information bureau. They all eventually left and the building sat vacant for a period before a grant resurrected the old building in 2004. While the building was essentially stripped to the studs and new wiring, plumbing, and HVAC systems were installed, much of the building was restored to its original splendor.
The old ice cream parlor with original fixtures on the marble countertop still serves root beer floats during special events. It’s not hard to see why this one-of-a-kind spot has floated to the top.
For more information about the Eagle River train depot or the Eagle River Historical Society, visit the society’s webpage: https://eagleriverhistory.org/. And come see it for yourself this spring and celebrate with the whole community in late June!