Update on NP Depot
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+12212) 13 years ago
Several folks, under the watchful eye of BNSF Bob and a pigeon or two, went through the NP Depot this weekend. While it does need a good tidy, it was in much better shape than we anticipated. Not as much pigeon poo as we expected, bunch of junk from the salvage days, but walls, ceilings, floors, foundations, all in great shape! I think it will cost less than we anticipated to restore because of the good condition.

Made those of us who toured very optimistic!

Really. The basement was in better shape than any basement I've ever been in in Miles City. No buckling, no cracking, no water. That is one well-built structure.
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Posted by David Schott (+17910) 13 years ago
Sounds like great news. Thanks for the update, Amorette, and thanks to the people who are actually taking some action to save the depot building. I'd like to see a new roof on that building sooner rather than later.
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Posted by Steve Sullivan (+1416) 13 years ago
Yea! That's great news. I would have hated to seen that torn down.
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+12212) 13 years ago
I wanted to start shoveling stuff out right then and there! I can hardly wait!!!!!
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Posted by David Schott (+17910) 13 years ago
I see in the Miles City Star that City Councilmember Leif Ronning has received mostly negative feedback about saving the depot and that he's likely to oppose any efforts on the part of the City to save it. Here's a quote from the story:

In roundtable discussion, Councilman Leif Ronning said he had received a lot of negative feedback about the preservation of the historic Northern Pacific depot. Ronning said he was concerned that the depot would not be restored quickly, and added that comparing the Miles City structure to one that was restored in Billings was like comparing apples to oranges. The Billings depot sits on a quieter line, within a speed- and noise-regulated zone that is more conducive to business, he stated.
Ronning invited more positive feedback, saying, "Hopefully I'll have people come up to me and say it's horrible that I don't want to save a piece of Miles City history," he concluded. "What I don't want to see is that it just sits there and lingers."
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Posted by Cory Cutting (+1270) 13 years ago
Those are great reasons to not restore it and just tear it down.
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Posted by Kacey (+3157) 13 years ago
Just remember that a councilman can say he's received LOTS of negative feedback even if it's only three out of five people he's actually spoken with. That whole paragraph was bogus. The depot could be a very viable option for lots of things in Miles City. And it's historic value is without monetary value.
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+12212) 13 years ago
Mr. Ronning has his apples and oranges in a cart before his horse. The quiet zone in Billings was instituted this summer. The restoration of the depot began in 1994.

I've heard people say, oh, but the Billings depot is in this fantastic neighborhood. Again, cart before horse. The neighborhood was downright nasty until the depot restoration began. As the depot area improved, the neighborhood improved. As the neighborhood improved, the need for a quiet zone and the necessary money for a quiet zone became possible.

The restoration of the depot DROVE the economic development which led to the quiet zone.

There are lots of facts and truth and information that need to be conveyed about the depot to make people understand that the restoration of the depot can lead to the economic redevelopment of that entire area. It has happened all over the country and if we can get that message across, it can happen here.
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Posted by Ryan (+475) 13 years ago
You are doing great Amorettte. Keep encouraging to keep our depot. Thanks.
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Posted by Steve Craddock (+2742) 13 years ago
The current situation is this:

With the Mayor's full support, City Council has asked the City's Preservation Commission and certain staff to explore alternatives to save the depot by finding some alternate use. Though not written in stone, it was clearly expressed by a majority of the councilmembers that they do NOT favor the City taking a long-term direct obligation to fund or manage the depot. Therefore, one of the challenges that lay before those who want to save the depot is to find or create an entity that will take on those responsibilities.

The Mayor and Preservation Commission members met with BNSF officials and convinced them to hold off on demolishing the structure while other alternatives are explored and developed. We are making progress in that arena. BNSF is providing information about the structure and we are working with two architectural firms who, at present, are donating their services to help fill in the information gaps. We are also seeking other non-city resources (donations and grants) and developing strategies to pay for professional services that cannot be obtained through through donation. As soon as we have adequately determined what all will truly be involved in restoring the depot, we will have a community charette to solicit the public's ideas about how they would like to see the depot used to best address the community's needs. Then the challenge will be making it happen!

Right now it's too early to say "I'm for IT" or "I'm against IT" on a universal scale because we don't know what "IT" is. We've heard that the Council doesn't want the depot restoration to impair the City's ability to meet other needs. That is, they don't want it competing with City funds and resources for other badly needed projects. That's understood by all involved. What isn't understood is what else can be done.

Mr. Ronning's statement serves as an important and useful reminder that we are at a very critical point regarding saving or losing the depot building. Anyone who wants to save the depot needs to understand THAT. Despite all the calls of "wolf!" in the past, all indications are that there won't be another chance after this to save the depot. It's make it or break it time.

BNSF is truly ready to demolish the structure. City Council is truly serious about preserving City funds for existing needs that are more directly related to providing municipal services (roads, water, police, fire protection, etc.).

What does that mean? It means that the community needs to be truly serious about stepping up and volunteering the time, sweat and money to save it - because without YOUR commitment, Miles City will lose one more important link to its colorful and wonderful past, and an opportunity to breath new life and create new value in town will have been squandered.

So, on a personal level, now is the time to ask yourself "Do I care about saving the depot?" If you want to help save the depot, be thinking not just what the building could be - be thinking of what you personally are willing to contribute in time, energy, brainpower and (yes) cold hard CA$H to make it happen. Because nobody else is going to do it for us.

[This message has been edited by Steve Craddock (9/16/2009)]
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Posted by Kacey (+3157) 13 years ago
Is there a local preservation society in Miles City? If not, it's time for one. Perhaps there is an organization in the US that likes to help others restore train depots. There are lots of places to look for help. But I do agree that there has to be a group of local people in charge who will not let this slide by the wayside. It is a one time chance. And there is no time to sit back and wait for someone else to do it.
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Posted by Dona Stebbins (+817) 13 years ago
We have two beautifully restored depot buildings in Great Falls. One houses Energy West and the other has law and miscellaneous offices. I encourage all of you to do what has to be done to save this historic and potentially valuable structure. I wish I were there to help! On a side note, my sister in Aztec, NM restored an old depot there and has lived in it for many years. Preserve it now, or regret it later. The historic buildings we save keep us from looking just like everywhere else. Good luck!
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Posted by Steve Craddock (+2742) 13 years ago
Oh - some important specifics that I forgot to include in the previous posts.

The two architects who are helping out are Dennis Deppmeier of A&E Architects of Billings (who was instrumental from day one in saving the Billings Depot)

and

Hometown son Shea Stewart of Intrinsik Design in Bozeman, who also spearheaded the design for the Spotted Eagle Recreational Area improvements that are now underway.

Both of these individuals deserve the gratitude of anyone who hopes to see the depot emerge once again as a significant, beautiful and integral landmark in Miles City.
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Posted by Larry Flesjer (+12) 13 years ago
If we were going to save it, we should have done it a long time ago. Tear it down and be done with it. I look at it every day at work and even if (somehow) it does get saved, the city will still have a lot of responsibility/liability because of it. Just because it gets saved doesn't mean that there will be a quiet zone for the trains established. I know just doing the quiet zone takes a lot of money and the city has to get liability insurance for every crossing that the zone is set for. (Glendive just did it for one crossing.) In my opinion, it isn't worth the time, energy and money it will take. Better to just tear it down now so we don't have to worry about it.
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+12212) 13 years ago
1) The City may not end up with the ownership. There are other agencies and/or an agency created just for that purpose that will most likely end up with ownership.

2) Saving it before was not possible due to ownership issues. There were numerous attempts over the years to save it but an "owner" between BNSF and a new buyer posed several problems. That person has only recently been removed from the equation by BNSF, allowing clear title to the building to be determined for the first time in 20 years. Also, in the past, leases from BNSF were not advantageous to the property owners, which also discouraged redevelopment for many years. That appears to have been resolved.

3) The "quiet zone" is not the issue. The depot will be the spur for redevelopment of the entire area. If you pass the depot regularly, you know that much of the adjoining area is blighted. The restoration of the depot will very likely inspire redevelopment of the adjacent areas, as it has in hundreds of town throughout the United States. The depot is the start. Where it ends is hard to say. It might be a quiet zone or not. The depot restoration in Billings started in 1994. The quiet zone was instituted last week.

4) A quiet zone involves a great deal more than just a single building. ALL the crossings in a town must be considered. Again, it is not part and parcel of depot restoration but might, in time, evolve as a result of the redevelopment spurred by the restoration.

5) We are losing historic buildings at an alarming rate. If history means nothing to you and you are fine with waste and loss, then I probably can't argue for restoration of the depot and redevelopment of the surrounding area. There are people who truly see well-built historic buildings as a space where a cheap metal building could be constructed. To them, history and aesthetics are worthless.

6) The word "liability" is often used as an excuse. What liability? If a restored building next to an active track was impossible due to "liability," then why are there restored buildings next to active tracks all over the country? The restaurant right next door seems to be free of some mysterious "liability" because it operates right next to an active track.

7) No one is asking you to do anything. Just step back and let people who can see the possibilities and have the know-how give it a try. If they fail, you can say "I told you so" all you like. All I am asking is the chance to try before giving up.
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Posted by Dona Stebbins (+817) 13 years ago
Keep up the good work, Amorette! It is worth all the effort you can put into it. They simply don't build beautiful structures like this anymore.
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Posted by David Schott (+17910) 13 years ago
I'm not sure why anyone would want to spend money saving the depot building when for probably less than half the price you could have a monument to modern (Miles City) architecture like this one that's just across the street from the depot:



http://www.flickr.com/pho...471453476/

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Posted by Larry Flesjer (+12) 13 years ago
Amorette, i am glad to see at least someone is as passionate as i am about the depot. (even if we are on opposite sides.) You might be able to get this fixed but you might not. I can't tell the future any better than you. As for the "If history means nothing to you." Sorry to break it to you but it does. People who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Just to let you know that whole "Just step back and let people who can see the possibilities and have the know-how give it a try," sounds like a be quiet and stay out of the way comment. It also sounds like you are implying that i don't have the know-how. Not always a good thing to make assumptions. Staying out of the way and being quiet are something i have never done or ever been accused of. Sorry if that upsets you but i will not keep my nose out of this.

[This message has been edited by Larry Flesjer (10/3/2009)]
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Posted by Steve Craddock (+2742) 13 years ago
Larry - Earlier you stated that the time to save the depot had passed and now the best thing would be to demolish it. I'm wondering what is different between "then" and "now".

Before you answer, it may be helpful to know that the building remains in remarkably good shape structurally. The only thing lost to the elements are some of the wooden trim pieces on the outside. It appears that, against all odds, the roof has prevented water intrusion because there is no evidence of water stains on the ceilings inside the building.

I also wonder if you have been watching the Ken Burn's series on the National Parks. Imagine this country without Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, or the Everglades. I don't know about you, but having grown up with those parks already in place, it is almost impossible for me to conceive of them not existing. Yet arguments against establishing those parks were raised and proponents of the preservation had to fight and work very hard to establish each park in the system.

Just think how much poorer our country would be today had those battles been lost. Then think of the depot and what it represents to Miles City. Expedience isn't always the best course when it comes to the things that make a place unique and represent something much more than land underfoot or a roof overhead.
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Posted by Steve Craddock (+2742) 12 years ago


Many of you have been wondering what's been going on regarding the effort to save the Depot from demolition. The Miles City Depot Acquisition and Restoration Project is making headway towards the goal of returning the Depot to the beautiful building it once was and can be again.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has approved our request to provide the environmental assessment of the property without any cost to the local community (that's easily a $15,000 value folks - probably more).

And, we have applied to the National Trust for Historic Preservation for a grant that will pay half of the cost of performing a structural engineering assessment. We have a bid in from a very well respected Montana-based engineering firm (Beaudette Consulting Engineers) for $5,000. (More on this later.)

Both of these assessments are necessary to answer the question that is on everyone's mind: How much will it cost to get the Depot back in shape? Early indications are very favorable that those costs will be on the low end. We know that the pigeon droppings in the Depot need to be dealt with as a hazardous material and we expect lead-based paint to be present as well - but BNSF has already removed asbestos-containing materials from the Depot, so that's a significant advantage.

And anyone who has walked around the outside of the building can easily see that the structure is solid - there are virtually no cracks in the concrete foundation or the brick walls. The roof shingles are seriously deteriorated as are several areas of the eaves, but miraculously very little water has intruded to the building's interior. The ceilings, walls and woodwork inside are remarkably well preserved.

Now, I know the other big question out there is WHAT WILL THE DEPOT BE USED FOR IN THE FUTURE? And the answer to that one is this: "Your ideas are as good as anyone else's." A restaurant, a community center, a brewery, a culinary institute, a museum, etc. - we've heard a bunch of ideas. The final cut will come down to what idea makes the most financial sense, because in the end the Depot will HAVE to support itself. And a big part of determining what it will take to support itself is in the answer to the first question: How much will it cost to restore the Depot building?

Which brings us back to the structural assessment and the $2,500. (see, I told you I'd get back to that topic!) Before the Depot can support itself, it's going to need a little support from us from time to time. Now is one of those times.

We have some pledges in hand from the Custer County Historical Society and other preservation supporters - but we haven't reached the $2,500 mark yet. So, we could use support from anyone who would like to help return the Depot to its former glory and let it continue to play a role in Miles City's future, just as it helped shaped Miles City's past.

So, if you would like to help keep this project "on track", please send your donation (check or money order - no cash, please) in whatever amount you would like to the

[c]CUSTER COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY[c]

Donations may be mailed to:

Custer County Historical Society
c/o Miles City Preservation Commission
P.O. Box 910
Miles City, MT 59301

The Custer County Historical Society is a tax-exempt organization registered in accordance with 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, Tax ID Number 23-7230813
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Posted by Kacey (+3157) 12 years ago
Question...you make mention of numerous ideas for the depot. Will it be rented out for whatever purpose is ultimately chosen? Or would whatever goes in the depot be overseen by the group helping to restore it? Can you explain how the different ideas might play out?
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Posted by Dan (+461) 12 years ago
Somewhat off topic but...what is the history of the triangular shaped building across the street from the depot? In my opinion that is a very neat looking place as well...
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Posted by DJB (+97) 12 years ago
A great idea for the depot is in the order of what they did with the "roundhouse" in Lead, SD....part of it offers excellent dining, a gift shop and most of all a "living map" which displays the arrival of miners and such when gold was discovered in the area. The gentleman that create this living map would very much like to have one built for Miles City only this one would deal with the Custer Battle. If anyone is seriously interested and would like more information I have contact information. Better yet visit the "Roundhouse" in Lead, SD.
Thanks
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Posted by Gene Larson (+281) 12 years ago
Dan:

The triangular-shaped building across from the depot was once the Northern Pacific Grocery, set up for the railroad workers back in the time. If it's still there, you can see a well-faded grocery sign on the easterly wall.
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Posted by David Schott (+17910) 12 years ago
Here you go, Dan:



http://www.flickr.com/pho...471474153/

And a link to a "Fanning the Embers" story about a family that owned the grocery:

http://milescity.com/hist....asp?id=11
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Posted by Steve Craddock (+2742) 12 years ago
Kacey - The answer to your question will unfold as the project progresses. Several factors will come into play, such as the expressed and indentified needs & desires of the community, the total rehabilitation costs, the availability of funds (grants, tax credits, low-interest loans, etc.), what entities are eligible for those funds, and the expertise and capabilities of those entities.

In other words, the future use, ownership and management of the Depot will all be determined based on what is best for the community and what is economically feasible. I know those are the "hot topics" that everyone wants an answer to, but it isn't really possible to dig into those topics and deal with those issues until we know the basic costs involved. And that's why the first step is to get the environmental and structural assessments done.

So, keep those cards, letters and checks coming!
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+12212) 12 years ago
Kacey, we have NO clue what will be the ultimate fate of the depot. Our goal is to protect and secure it, then have a ready estimate of restoration for anyone, public, private or some combination thereof, to take it over. The entity will have to have a viable plan. Who will make the final decision isn't even settled since ownership is still with the BNSF, although we hope that will change soon.

Knowing the building is structurally sound and free of environmental liabilities makes it much more desirable to an end user. Who the end user will be depends on who wants it. There will no doubt be covenants on how much the building can be altered from its present appearance but other than that. . .
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Posted by Steve Craddock (+2742) 12 years ago
I spoke with a representative of the BNSF earlier today (Hi Barbara!) and I am totally convinced that this is the best opportunity Miles City has ever had to save the Depot -- as in now -- right NOW.

Another opportunity like this is very unlikely to come along again, so it's important for everyone to join together right now in order to keep the Depot around for future Miles Citians to use and enjoy.

There will be many activities in the future once the assessment reports are done (see above). However, leaders who can help identify resources and mobilize support for the project are needed right now, and funds are also needed right now.

SO ----

If you would be interested in volunteering your time to work with MCDARP, please respond to this message or send an email to [email protected] OR you can call Mayor Whalen at City Hall (234-3462) or Amorette Allison at the Miles City Preservation Office (234-3090).

If you can donate funds, please send your contributions to the address for the Custer County Historical Society cited above.

And if you can do it RIGHT NOW - well, that would be good!

Thank you.

[This message has been edited by Steve Craddock (7/1/2010)]
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Posted by City Grant Administrator (+76) 12 years ago
Just a quick update on the progress that's being made - and this project is progressing!

First, it was a wonderful surprise to receive some contributions in the mail last week. A huge THANK YOU to the wonderful individuals who sent donations in. Your thank you notes are in the mail!

Second, Kathy Doeden and Mike Coryell gave a progress report to the City Council at its last meeting, which was almost exactly one year from the day the Council adopted the resolution initiating the MCDARP project. Kathy's opening statement was that we've made a lot of progress over the past year - and that progress continues to be made. I think it's safe to say that everyone present agreed.

Third, the National Trust for Historic Preservation approved our proposal to hire a structural engineer to assess the condition of the Depot. Unfortunately, due to an unexpectedly large number of competing grant applications, the Trust wasn't able to fully fund our request.

Make no mistake - We are very grateful for the National Trust's support for the Depot project. It's just that the MCDARP team now needs to raise an additional $1,000 to pay for this very essential task. The structural assessment will identify exactly what needs to be done to protect and rehabilitate the building, including cost estimates.

So, if YOU have been thinking about supporting the Depot project, now would be an excellent time to send in a donation. Every contribution, no matter what size, will help keep this project "on track."

Donations may be made to the Custer County Historical Society and mailed to:

Custer County Historical Society
c/o Miles City Preservation Commission
P.O. Box 910
Miles City, MT 59301

The Custer County Historical Society is a tax-exempt organization registered in accordance with 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, Tax ID Number 23-7230813
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Posted by Elizabeth Emilsson (+795) 12 years ago
Gene Larson wrote that the triangular building across from the depot was once a grocery store. When I first moved to Miles City in 1976, that building had an old IWW sign on it. I thought at one time it may have been a labor temple. Does anyone else remeber that sign and where it might be if it still exists. Another thought: this year's baby pigeons are now moving into their adolescent stage. I have an excellent squab recipe from the Two Fat Ladies Cookbook. Think about harvesting the squab at the depot, thus saving us from another generation of prolific poopers and procreaters. Perhaps instead of a Mosquito Festival, we should plan a Squab Festival. How about it, Mary Elizabeth?
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+12212) 12 years ago
Yes, the NP Grocery was the Labor Temple from about 1960 through the early seventies. That's what I called it as a kid. I know a bunch of furniture was stolen out of it by antique thieves. Maybe the sign went, too.
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Posted by Doug E (+150) 12 years ago
I have the sign
My friend Howard Anderson's famaly owened the store and building

[This message has been edited by Doug E (7/18/2010)]
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+12212) 12 years ago
YAY! Glad to know it didn't go the way of the chairs and the regulator clocks at Washington School and the door knobs at the Elks and endless other bits and pieces stolen from our town.
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Posted by Elizabeth Emilsson (+795) 12 years ago
It's good to know the sign still exists. I would love to get a picture of it. Any chance of that? My number is in the phone book. Please give me a call. Thanks.
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Posted by Leif Ronning (+74) 12 years ago
I would just like to explain my position on the depot one more time. I opposed the effort to save the depot for practical reasons. I have watched the building turn into a eye sore and a health hazard for years and was actually relieved when I heard the BN was going to remove it. After almost 40 years of talking about doing something with the depot I felt it was time to move on. Everyone knows that money will remain tight for a long time and the competiton for tax funds will get worse. As long as I am on the council I will oppose any efforts to divert funds to the depot project. I did vote along with the other councilman to ask BN to let the private sector take another shot at saving the building and hope this effort succeeds. Leif
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