The Wells Railroad Depot, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and newly restored, stands proudly in a city that began as a railroad town.
The project to restore the depot took six years. In February 2004, the IC&E Railroad contacted the Wells City Development Director with their intent to demolish the 1903 Depot and put up a metal building that would better suit their needs.
Many citizens of the community offered support, and in 2005 a once-dormant Wells Historical Society was re-established with the goal of saving the historic train depot. Members worked with the railroad to come up with an alternate site and the IC&E purchased nearby land. The historical society then purchased the depot for one dollar.
The building was in deplorable shape. The witch-hat roof was leaking, chimneys crumbling, and pigeons flew in through holes in the wooden eaves. Once the historical society took possession, they could see the beginnings of a railroad museum with the original freight scale, original ticket window and solid wood floors inside.
Work started at the top, and with a matching grant from the Minnesota Historical Society and funds from the Milwaukee Road Historical Association, the Wells Economic Development Authority and local fundraising, the two chimneys were restored with their original bricks.
Then a $266,000 grant was secured from the Minnesota Department of Transportation Enhancement Program. With funds designated for distribution in 2009, the historical society had approximately three years to come up with the required 20% in matching funds plus architectural fees.
The community of Wells responded well to fund-raising efforts. Members of the Wells Historical Society created and sold historic calendars beginning in 2006, held pancake breakfasts, manned food stands, sold tee shirts, Red Wing crockery and other items. They also worked to enlarge the membership base. Additional grants were secured through Minnesota Historical Society and the state bonding bill. The 100 plus member society is now debt free.
In 2009, restoration began in earnest. The roof substrate was repaired and cedar shingles installed. Repair and replacement of the original redwood gutters and fascia brick was completed. Windows were repaired or replaced with the same design. Inside repair included ceilings, walls, floors and refinished woodwork. All new electrical wiring, lighting and A/C equipment were installed. The building, including the restroom, is handicap accessible.
On August 20, 2010, the official ribbon cutting kicked off the beginning of the Wells Depot Museum. This century-old depot has new life, showcasing the history of the Wells area. We are now open year round and we invite you to come for a visit.