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Pine River Depot project cited

PINE RIVER — The relocation and restoration of the Pine River Depot was selected as one of 15 projects to win a 2011 Minnesota Preservation Award. 

The award was scheduled to be presented Thursday night by the Minnesota Preservation Alliance at the newly renovated Boy Scout Base Camp at Fort Snelling in the Twin Cities.

Built in 1895, the Pine River Depot played an important role in delivering goods, passengers and mail to northern Minnesota for 90 years. But, with the suspension of railroad service in 1985, the depot closed its doors, leaving an unknown future for the community landmark. Faced with possible demolition for the expansion of Highway 371, citizens formed the advocacy organization Heritage Group North. 

Lobbied by Heritage Group North to save the Depot, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, assisted by Cass County, agreed to relocate and restore the building to connect with the former railbed now converted to the Paul Bunyan Trail. The project was made possible by a $250,000 FHWA Transportation History Network Grant and MnDOT state funds.

Transporting the historic Depot in one piece was a challenge because of its multiple additions and condition. A moving plan was prepared to coordinate the move with multiple partners and ensure the depot’s safe passage. After sitting vacant for more than 20 years, the depot’s condition required extensive repair based on extensive research and a meticulous approach to preservation.

Moving the depot provided an unexpected opportunity to restore the depot’s connection to the city of Pine River. For many years, the public’s only view of the depot was of its nondescript backside. Relocating and restoring the depot allows it to once again greet Pine River’s public and is a case study in a collaborative project done right, alliance officials said.

Involved in the project were Minnesota Department of Transportation, Cass County Highway Department, city of Pine River, Heritage Group North; Architect: MacDonald & Mack Architects; Contractor: Gopher State Contractors; Advocate: Heritage Group North.