The Greyhound Bus Depot at Fifth and Laurel Streets in downtown Brainerd may be just a memory to some, but the bus station’s bones can still be seen today.
Built by the Greyhound Interstate Bus Co. in 1945, the depot included a restaurant that could seat a hundred or so and was situated across the street from Brainerd City Hall.
“I do remember that at the end there were two bus stalls. I think one was an insurance agent on the east end of that modernized building, and they entered from the back and exited on Laurel Street, and they had a wonderful restaurant there,” said Carl Faust, a local historian.
The $50,000 Greyhound bus terminal was a one-story structure that included loading space, a large waiting room and restrooms in addition to the cafeteria-style restaurant.
“The cafe there was thought of as just a great little cafe, whether you were using the bus line or not,” Faust said Thursday, July 29.
According to historian Ann M. Nelson, the depot was “a very fine example of the Moderne style of architecture,” which was popular from 1930 to 1950 and was sometimes called the “Art Moderne” style, which was closely related to the Art Deco style that was developed before it.
“A feature of the terminal is a special undercover loading area which will permit passengers to board buses fully protected from inclement weather,” according to the Sept. 20, 1945, edition of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch.
An additional concrete area to the south of the building provided added emergency space for from six to eight of the Greyhound super coaches, according to the publication.
“But it’s almost as if all bus stations, or all Greyhound bus stations, all kind of looked like — they kind of had those oval windows, you know?” Faust said.
Nelson wrote about the bus depot, “The Moderne style featured smooth walls with little surface ornamentation, rounded corners and curved glass. Moderne buildings have flat roofs and bands of windows with a horizontal emphasis.”
The architecture featured a streamlined styling “in keeping with the nature of tomorrow’s modernized highway transportation. The structure’s facing is of attractive cream-color glazed brick,” according to the Sept. 20, 1945, edition of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch.
The first bus to leave the terminal in 1945 was released by Miss Brainerd, the Brainerd high school homecoming queen at the time. During that afternoon, free refreshments were served at an “afternoon tea” in the new terminal café.
“If you wanted to get down to Minneapolis and back you took the Greyhound. We never did the train — I don't know why — but it seems like everybody I knew, they did the train. They went east of Duluth or they went to Staples or, you know, points beyond,” Faust recalled.
The exterior of Brainerd’s iconic building that once served as the Greyhound Bus Depot was changed by Brainerd Eyecare Center almost five years ago, which hired Hy-Tec Construction to do the reconstruction work.
“All of us history nuts were just coming unglued and just in a panic that they were going to modernize the building. We thought it’ll never look like the original building but they did a pretty darn good job,” Faust said.
There were structural issues with the brick behind the banding that was on the building. And when it was removed from the building’s north and south sides, deteriorating brick and wood was found beneath. The deteriorated wood was removed and filled in with concrete mortar.
“The Greyhound Bus Depot in Brainerd has or had a rounded corner at the entrance and a wide band of metal above the horizontal curved windows, reminiscent of the horizontal curved windows in Greyhound buses,” Nelson wrote in an account of the station’s architectural history.
There were water problems later around the existing 1940s style windows. In order to save them, crews needed to remove the old caulking and install new flashing around each of the windows to prevent water damage to the window frame and building structure.
“It's one of the few buildings that I really give the owners credit for restoring it as best as they could,” Faust said. “In talking to some of the contractors, they said basically the old stucco and the facade was peeling apart … so something had to be done.”