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HAMLINE, MINN. TRAIN DEPOT

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One of the least documented landmarks in the Hamline Midway neighborhood is its former train depot. Or, more accurately, depots.

In its early years as the small prairie village of Hamline, Minnesota, until being swallowed up by the encroaching Twin Cities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, these small stations served as the gateway to Hamline University and its surrounding neighborhood.

 

 

THE PROJECT

Because the railroad once served as the primary gateway to the Hamline Midway neighborhood, finding evidence and information about these train depots is a high priority of the History Corps.

Brian Hoffman, Professor of Anthropology at Hamline, has expressed interest in helping us in this effort. We are also receiving support from Hamline University archivist, Candice Hart. Read more details at Brian's Blog here.

If all goes as planned, we'll find enough evidence of at least one of the former depots by spring, 2007.

 

Tentative Timeline (updated 17 JAN 2007)

• JAN - APR 2007: Research and gather materials about former depots; pinpoint location(s)
• MAY 2007: Plan project with Hamline University and Hancock School for Fall
• JUN - AUG 2007: Possibly do some small priliminary digs or other explorations
• SEPT 2007: Excavating Hamline’s History course begins in collaboration with:
••••- Hancock School
••••- Hamline Midway History Corps and other community members

 

Backup Plan

While we're optimistic about finding at least one of the locations of these train depots, we're also considering other backup locations. Some of these include sites on or near the Hamline campus:

- An old stable/barn that once stood on campus
- The former Hamline Masonic Temple
- The old Hamline Methodist Church

- The old Hancock School
- The former Town Hall/Bandstand

Do you have any other potential locations we might consider? Let us know!

Email info@hamlinemidwayhistory.org with your ideas.

 

Links to Related Resources:

Anthropology 3980: 150th Anniversary Excavation
- Hamline University Hall of Science Dig
Prof. Brian Hoffman's Blog: Old Dirt - New Thoughts : Hamline History category
Hamline University Archives
Hamline University 150th Anniversary Timeline

 

 

NARRATIVES

As a starting point, there are several good snippets from books that mention, and in some cases, describe the Hamline trian depots. Here they are, in order of appearance:

 

1. From a 1939 Alumni Association book called Hamline University, edited by Charles Pace, University President

Mrs. Dorothy Bridgman Atkinson in an essay, "Hamline Grows Strong":

One hot August day in 1883, a dusty train jerked to a stop at the small rectangular red brick station called College Place that stood where Simpson Avenue dropped down a slight hill to the Saint Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railroad tracks.

She also included the following footnote to this:

This railroad in 1889 became part of the Great Northern Railroad System and the station was called Hamline. In 1883, Hamline was a village by itself and the postoffice was "Hamline." This district was not annexed to the city of Saint Paul until 1885.

Further on in the essay, she includes:

Hamline was not as easily accessible then as it is today; for a long time it was a full hour's trip to Minneapolis, -- first by train, then by horsecar, later by a slow type of electric street car.

**

Dr. Frank A. Cone, Class of 1886 in an essay, "Pioneer Days"

I landed at Hamline early in January, trailing a Minnesota blizzard with its belated trains and general discomforts. I had thought of Hamline as a suburbs of the city, but landing at the little station around noon, and peering over the snow drifts, I saw the lone building standing like a forlorn castle in the midst of expanding fields of snow.

Later, he writes about a group of Hamline students -- with faculty chaperones -- attending a temperance lecture in Saint Paul:

We went down by train in a very proper manner, but there were no late trains, another providential arrangement for the seclusion of the seat of learning. At the close of the lecture, naturally those at the back were the first to make their exit. Now our only means of returning was to take the horse-car, ride to the foot of the hill where the cathedral now stands, and hoof it the rest of the way.

**

And Dr. James S. King in an essay, "The Middle Years and Now", describes a turn-of-the-century streetcar journey from downtown Saint Paul to Hamline:

Arrival - Monday morning, September 6, 1901, marks the moment of my introduction to Minnesota. From Vernon McCombs, one of the student managers of the college bookstore, I had received instructions how to reach the Hamline district from the Union Depot. Here was the place, the corner of Fourth and Sibley, and here the car, the Hamline-Jackson, a rare species, indeed, which came reeling down the Fourth Street hill and made an abrupt turn onto Sibley pursuing then its seemingly devious route to Wabasha and on to University and running as far west as Lexington, where it turned north proceeding to Minnehaha. Here swinging west it continued its course to Snelling at which point it again turned north reaching its destination at Taylor one block from the campus and directly at the corner where Dean Batchelder lived. This car was distinctly sui generis, functioning, as it seemed, like many a homo sapiens, with a minimum of reserves and a maximum of noise. Tradition has it that the passengers got off frequently and helped the car up the inclines on Lexington and Minnehaha near their point of intersection. Of course there was no car line on Snelling nor was the street paved. Both came many years later.

 

From Hamline University: A History 1854-1994, by David W. Johnson, 1994:

The scene which greeted Bridgman when he alighted from the train at the grandiosely named College Place station in June 1883 was not markedly different from that which had presented itself to students and faculty three years earlier. To be sure, a small red brick building standing at the end of Simpson Street had replaced the tiny clapboard shack which had served previously as the Hamline station, and two buildings one of them only partly completed, now graced the pasture. A narrow plank running diagonally from the station toward the ungraded campus through fields of goldenrod and ragweed partially eliminated the indignity of the trek.

 

From "Hamline Church in Its Neighborhood" by Mary Hawker Bakeman in Casting Long Shadows: 125 Years at Hamline United Methodist Church (2006):

[Hamline University's] decision to move to St. Paul was reached in July 1873. The entire midway district had many advantages. It was already laid out in park form, with street conforming to natural grades and native trees preserved. It had connections to both St. Paul and Minneapolis, by three Short Line Railways and by the University Electric Railway, with a 5 cent fare to both cities. The railway station, located within walking distance to the north of University Hall, was built in 1862, then replaced in 1887. A new 2-story frame building was built in 1900, then abandoned in 1927 when streetcars replaced passenger trains within the metro area. Students could come from anywhere and get to the new campus by train.

 

Do you know of other references to the Hamline train depots?

Email info@hamlinemidwayhistory.org and let us know!

 

Links to Related Resources:

Casting Long Shadows: 125 Years at Hamline United Methodist Church is available for purchase at Hamline United Methodist Church; more info here

 

MAPS

Most of these maps can also be found on our Neighborhood History through Maps page.

[Links open in NEW Browser window]

 

Rice's Map of Saint Paul (1874)

This is the earliest map in our online collection to show a train depot. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be too reliable -- the depot is marked by a small dot, almost as an after thought.

But, if it were to be trusted, it would place this depot at the southeast corner of the intersection of Snelling Avenue and the railroad tracks.

 

E.S. Norton Real Estate Map of Saint Paul (1886)

 

E.S. Norton Real Estate Map of Saint Paul (1886)

Now it gets a bit more interesting...

This map shows a depot north of the tracks, at the end of Simpson Street. Like the 1874 Rice's Map above, this seems to be more of suggestion than precise direction.

Thankfully, the next map -- of the same year -- seems to give much more detail...

 

E.S. Norton Real Estate Map of Saint Paul (1886)

 

Plat Map of Hamline Midway (1886)
(Map courtesy of Donald Empson)

This plat map shows clear detail of both the various sets of tracks and the Hamline Station, between Holton & Sheldon (today's Albert Street).

But it also raises more questions than it answers...
- Why does it show the depot on the south side of the tracks?
- What's the other building on just to the west on the lower spur? Could this be an old depot? Some other railroad building?

 

Plat Map of Hamline Midway (1886)

 

Hand-drawn Map by J.S. Hasslen, Sr. (1890-1900)

This amazing map, created by Hamline, Minnesota resident John S. Hasslen, Sr. (born 1885), tells many stories.

On the depot (item #27), he writes, "Hamline Depote [sic] on G.N. used first by Hamline Univ."

This also shows the depot to reside on the south side of the tracks.

 

Hand drawn map by J.S. Hasslen

 

Documentation from Great Northern Railway Line (1902)
A.F.E. #6585

Perhaps the most encouraging discovery so far is this blueprint and letter from the Great Northern archive. It references an Authorization for Expenditure (A.F.E.) by the railroad for removal of the platform "in front of the old Hamline depot building."

It goes on to give precise dimensions and materials used.

 

Great Northern AFE

   

The accompanying blueprint shows this building's footprint and position from the track -- 75 feet from the center of the four sets of tracks. But whether or not this can help us position this depot using today's tracks, we still do not know.

MOST INTERESTING: When you put this blueprint together with the one below -- even though they may have been created a year or more apart -- they are a good match. This creates a good picture of the area of tracks on both sides of Snelling Avenue around 1902-03.

See them together here.

Great Northern AFE #6585 blueprint

 

Documentation from Great Northern Railway Line (190?)
A.F.E. #7292

Similar to the blueprint above, this shows the tracks at Snelling Avenue. This Authorization for Expenditure was for adding a 3/4-inch water pipe to the existing water main.

Another bit of information we can glean from this blueprint is the labeling of the passenger train tracks: the northern-most is the "East Bound Passenger Track", and the second one is the "West Bound Passenger Track".

Great Northern AFE #7292 blueprint

 

Page from U.S. Atlas Showing Saint Paul (circa 1905-10)
(Map courtesy of Mark Thieroff)

While this map does not show a train depot, it gives some good detail of the various railroad tracks in the area at this time.

 

 

Page from U.S. Atlas Showing Saint Paul  (circa 1905-10)

 

Google Maps (current day)

Zoom in, zoom out, try the "Hybrid" button, scoll left and right -- what clues can you discover from these satellite images and mapping at Google Maps?

Hamline Midway today

 

 

PHOTOS

Various photographs from the Hamline University yearbook, the "Liner".

[Links open in NEW Browser window]

 

1925 Hamline Liner, page 162

This building, just north of Norton Field, certainly looks like it could be a train station.

See the full page here.

 

1925 Hamline Liner, page 162

 

[More photos coming soon]

OTHER RESOURCES

Here are some other related resources to check out:

[Links open in NEW Browser window]

BNSF Railway:
- BNSF History
- BNSF Additional Resources
Cyndi's List: Railroads
The First Railroad in Minnesota (via Living History Society of Minnesota)
Great Northern Railway Historical Society
Minnesota Depots (Jack Marshall's Photo Repository)

National Railroad Museum (Green Bay, Wisconsin)
NP (Northern Pacific) Structures & Plans

Park Genealogical Books: Minnesota by Rail
Railroad Station Historical Society
Train Depot photos from the Minnesota Historical Society
W&H MAIN YARDS: Railroad Document Archive

 

 

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Updated 30 JAN 2007
 

Hamline Midway History Corps
www.HamlineMidwayHistory.org
Saint Paul, Minnesota