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Wilton’s Soo Line Depot


Fifty years ago the National Historic Preservation Act was created to help preserve the diverse archaeological and architectural treasures of America that were quickly disappearing. One of these treasures, preserved and still visible today, is the Soo Line Depot at Wilton.

On this date in 1901, the North Dakota Press Association was making plans to hold its convention in the new community of Wilton. William Drew Washburn, a wealthy Minneapolis flour miller, had purchased one hundred and fifteen thousand acres of land north of Bismarck from the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1898. To make the land more saleable, he established a railroad through this tract and began operating a coal mine. With Wilton the headquarters for his mining and land sale operations, Washburn erected a depot there to accommodate the shipment of supplies and for the influx of land seekers.

Designed by Minneapolis architect William Keith, the depot was twenty feet wide, sixty-eight feet long and was completed, with electricity, on December 17, 1900. A twenty-four foot addition was added in 1907. For the most part it resembled the typical railroad stations of the day with its two-story rectangular design and extended gable roof, which partially sheltered the freight and passenger platform. The interior of the depot consisted of the passenger waiting room with wainscoted walls, freight rooms and the ticket office. A five sided bay window projecting off the ticket office allowed the station agent a view along the tracks. An interior window with wrought iron brackets separated the ticket office from the waiting room.

A three-roomed apartment on the second floor served as the stationmaster’s quarters but it’s believed that had Washburn originally used the apartment when visiting Wilton on business.

Rising out of the center of the building is its most unique feature – a stubby tower with the unmistakable lines of an oriental pagoda. Sixteen feet square, the tower base is capped by four small, triangular corners, which then results in an octagonal upper section topped by a conical roof. This upper room allowed for a clear view of the countryside. Unfortunately, the reason for the unique pagoda design has been lost to history, but it was a singular feature among railroad depots in North Dakota.

In 1978, the depot gained a spot on the "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Register_of_Historic_Places" National Register of Historic Places , preserving one of North Dakota’s architectural treasures.

Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis


National Register of Historic Places Inventory- Nomination Form-Minneapolis-St. Paul and Sault Sainte Maries Railroad Company Depot, 1977