Great Northern Depot (Wayzata, Minnesota)

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Great Northern Railroad Depot
Wayzata Depot 7.jpg
Great Northern Depot (Wayzata, Minnesota) is located in Minnesota
Great Northern Depot (Wayzata, Minnesota)
Location 402 E. Lake St., Wayzata, Minnesota
Coordinates 44°58′7″N 93°31′3″W / 44.96861°N 93.51750°W / 44.96861; -93.51750Coordinates: 44°58′7″N 93°31′3″W / 44.96861°N 93.51750°W / 44.96861; -93.51750
Built 1906
Architect Bartlett,Samuel; Hogeland,A.H.
Architectural style English Tudor
Governing body Local
NRHP Reference #


Added to NRHP July 07, 1981

The Great Northern Depot in Wayzata, Minnesota is a depot built by the Great Northern Railway in 1906. The depot is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[1] The depot now houses the offices and museum of the Wayzata Historical Society as well as the Wayzata Area Chamber of Commerce, and is known as the Wayzata Depot.

Early history[edit]

The St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, predecessor of the Great Northern, reached Wayzata on August 24, 1867. The first depot was located about three blocks east of its present location. When the railroad continued building westward, local citizens protested the construction of the railroad on the stagecoach road that ran in front of the shops in the business district, because the railroad would shower the town with cinders and sparks. The railroad ignored their complaints, so the town sued the railroad in 1883. In response, James J. Hill, the president of the Great Northern, threatened to wipe Wayzata off the map. He demolished the former depot in 1893 and moved the stop a mile to the east, naming it Holdridge. Hill was quoted as saying, "Wayzata residents can walk a mile for the next 20 years!" Since Hill had influence with residents on the west side of town, he established a platform stop at Ferndale Road, about a third of a mile west of downtown. After 12 years of this feud, in which Wayzata citizens had to trudge a mile through marshy terrain to reach the train, Hill relented and built the new depot in the center of Wayzata's downtown.[2]


The Great Northern Railway was influential in Wayzata since it brought tourists to the city to enjoy the resorts on Lake Minnetonka. Many of these tourists came from the Southern United States. Large steamboats ferried tourists to various hotels that were built to house these guests, and this contributed to Wayzata's development.[2]

Becomes a museum[edit]

After the cessation of passenger service, the depot closed in 1971, at which point it was donated to the city of Wayzata.[2] The Wayzata Historical Society operates a museum in the building. The original waiting room benches rest on the original terrazzo tile floor. A freight agent's desk and freight scales reproduce the experience of checking passengers' luggage on the train. There is also a ticket window where an agent hands out souvenir tickets for destinations on the Empire Builder train. The office area features the stationmaster's desk and the operator's desk, along with various memorabilia.

In the summer, the Museum of Lake Minnetonka operates the Minnehaha steamboat from a dock located adjacent to the depot.[3]

While passenger service to Wayzata ended in 1971, the rail line running past the depot remains in service. The Great Northern Railway merged with other railroads to form the Burlington Northern Railroad in 1970, only a short time before Amtrak took over passenger rail service in the United States in 1971. While Amtrak did not serve Wayzata, the Empire Builder continued to run through the city toward Willmar and Morris, Minnesota until 1979 when the North Coast Hiawatha ended service and the Empire Builder changed to its present routing.[4][5] Burlington Northern merged with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad to form BNSF Railway in 1996. The tracks past the depot are now part of BNSF's Wayzata Subdivision.

In September 2006 the Minnesota Garden Railroad Society (MGRS) started setting up a temporary garden railroad display to help the city of Wayzata celebrate its annual James J. Hill days. The response to this attraction was so popular that the City of Wayzata, The Wayzata Historical Society and the MGRS, held meetings about possibly making a permanent garden railroad layout there. In 2009 the City of Wayzata approved the project, and the State of Minnesota got its first public garden railroad display. Thanks to a donation of G-scale model railroad locomotives and rolling stock, the depot museum runs model garden trains every weekend from 1 to 4 pm., free of charge—weather permitting.

This plaque describes the history of the depot.


  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15. 
  2. ^ a b c Plaque posted on site by the City of Wayzata in 2004
  3. ^ "Wayzata Historical Society - Great Northern Train Depot". 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-27. 
  4. ^ "National Train Timetables: Effective July 29, 1979". Amtrak. 1979. Retrieved September 18, 2010. 
  5. ^ "National Train Timetables: Effective October 1–27, 1979". Amtrak. 1979. Retrieved September 18, 2010. 

External links[edit]