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National Register of Historic Places Program

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.


Property Name Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway Combination Depot
Reference Number 16000609
State IA
County Winneshiek
Town Decorah
Street Address 203 W. Pearl St.
Multiple Property Submission Name N/A
Status Listed 9/12/2016
Areas of Significance Transportation, Architecture
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The Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Combination Depot in Decorah, Iowa is locally significant under Criterion A as the city's oldest railroad depot and one of the few remaining railroad-related resources of any type in the town. Built in 1869, two decades after the town was established, the Milwaukee railway officials were enticed by local boosters to build a short branch line to town after bypassing Decorah with its main northbound line. With a growing population, Decorah was in the heart of northeast Iowa's wheat region and the ample water power provided by the Upper Iowa River already supported a variety of mills and manufacturing concerns. Decorah was in competition with other new settlements for residents and businesses, and aspired to become entrep�t to a regional hinterland. City leaders wanted to make sure their town would be connected to the lucrative distant markets reached through the Milwaukee's main line. Without that life line to the greater markets, the town's continued growth could not be assured. The depot also is eligible under Criterion C as one of the few remaining wooden depots left in the state, and surely one of its oldest wooden depots, a rare remnant of the first generation of railroad companies and train depots in Iowa. No statewide survey of depots has been conducted to support this theory, but the passage of time, wooden construction materials, and all railroad companies' propensity to frugally but heavily use (up) their resources points to the likelihood that the Decorah's Milwaukee & St. Paul depot is a rare survivor of its property type. The period of significance, 1869 to 1971, runs from the completion of the building through the period it served the railroad company in some capacity, largely as a freight depot. That latter year marks the end of the building's association with railroad transportation history; after 1971 it was adapted for new and non-railroad uses.

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Properties are listed in the National Register of Historic Places under four criteria: A, B, C, and D. For information on what these criterion are and how they are applied, please see our Bulletin on How to Apply the National Register Criteria