The former passenger and freight depot that sits at Fourth Street on the west side of White Bear’s only remaining north-south railroad track was constructed in 1935 of repurposed bricks from the roundhouse building that once stood two blocks to the south.
The railroad first came through White Bear on Sept. 10, 1868, when the Lake Superior, Mississippi and Duluth Railroad brought a special excursion train through town for the opening ceremonies. Dignitaries such as then-Sen. and former Minnesota Gov. Alexander Ramsey were part of the occasion.
The line ultimately connected White Bear with both the capital city of St. Paul and the international seaport of Duluth, allowing for economical freight and passenger transportation. The coming of the railroad to White Bear ushered in the grand resort era of the late 1800s and put our community on the map.
Through the years, the railroads changed as companies encountered financial hardship or merged. In the mid-1930s, the automobile was becoming the predominant mode of transportation, and the current smaller structure was built to replace White Bear’s original depot just to its east near the northbound lanes of today’s Highway 61.
In the 1980s, the city of White Bear Lake purchased the building from Northern Pacific and began a lengthy process of rehabilitation to repurpose the building as office space for the White Bear Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as feature displays of railroad history by the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society.
Sara Markoe Hanson is the executive director of the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society. She shares history thoughts monthly on this back page.