Did the Princess Depot burn down?

Most visitors to Minnehaha Falls have seen the little railroad depot, the “Princess” depot, that sits along the railroad tracks southwest of the falls. It was once owned by the Milwaukee Road but is now owned by the Minnesota Historical Society and operated by the Minnesota Transportation Museum. The little information available about the depot says that it was built in 1875. However last year while helping my daughter research a school paper we came across an article in the Minneapolis Tribune of March 7, 1891 that read in its entirety:

The Minnehaha Depot Burned
Shortly after 10 o’clock last night the Milwaukee depot at Minnehaha Falls took fire. Before the apparatus of the fire department could reach the place the flames had obtained too much of a start to be put out and the building, which was built of wood, was totally destroyed. It was a small structure, probably worth less than $1,000.

Subsequent searches of the newspaper revealed no more information on the fire or when the depot was rebuilt. Was the Princess Depot the one that burned or was there another Milwaukee depot at Minnehaha?

Not exactly a Minneapolis parks issue, but many visitors to the falls likely passed through that station.

David C. Smith


5 comments so far

  1. […] Princess Depot burn down in 1891? Recent information found by Karen Cooper, which she presented as a comment on that blog post, suggests that it was the “motor line” depot or waiting room, not the Milwaukee Road […]

  2. Karen Cooper on

    Hey, Dave,

    I am unsure about this. The Globe reported that it was the depot on “the motor line”, which would refer to the street cars and their tracks, found on the east side of Minnehaha Ave. Streetcars never ran on the Milwaukee tracks. That Globe story reads: “Minnehaha Depot Burned. The old depot at Minnehaha Falls, used by the motor line, was destroyed by fire last night. The depot was a small frame structure and was burned to the ground. The building was worth about $500. It was not been used since the extension of the Minnehaha street railway line other than as a waiting room.” It seems possible they are talking about a second depot, and not the Princess.

    (I know I’m late to the party here.)

    • David C. Smith on

      Great info, Karen, thanks. That does provide clarification to the Tribune story. I’ve been wondering for years! People have told me it made more architectural sense that the Princess Depot had not been rebuilt, but the “second depot” explanation had never been offered.

  3. Michael 'Fish' Kaye on

    The Princess Depot is evident in this photo from 1938 (2nd down)

    • David C. Smith on

      Thanks, Michael. It looks essentially the same as today in that photo.
      Did you come across any older photos of the station? No one has provided yet a definitive answer on whether the current depot is still the same one built in 1875 or whether it was burned down in 1891 as the newspaper reported. And if it was rebuilt, when? An architect whose opinion I trust claims the style is more 1875 than 1891, which would suggest that this is not the station that burned down, unless a replica was built. But if this depot didn’t burn, where was the one that did? Newspapers sometimes get things wrong, but they rarely report incorrectly the destruction by fire of a heavily used building. It’s just too easy to confirm.
      Cool train!

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