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(rshsdepot) Clermont, IA

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Clermont Historicals wants train depot on National Register of Historic

By Jeremy Varner - March 19, 2002

      If the walls of the old Rock Island Train Depot in Clermont could only
talk - imagine the stories they could tell in documenting the decades of
historical events gone by.

      The brick depot was the heart of the community and a transportation
hub for many years, says LaVerne Swenson, local historian.

      At one time, four passenger trains and two freight trains traveled
through Clermont each day.

      Constructed in 1871 of brick made in Clermont, the building qualifies
for the National Register of Historic Places.

      Although the Clermont Historic Preservation Commission applied for a
grant last year to fund the nomination of the depot to the register monies
were unavailable.

      State Historical Society of Iowa National Register Coordinator Beth
Foster said many applications are received each year and funding is limited.

      The depot, used by trains for 100 years, is currently a storage site
for the Valley Co-op which owns the building.

      Lloyd Meier, chairman of the Clermont Historic Preservation
Commission, said it hasn't yet been decided if a grant will be reapplied for
this year. He said the local commission wants the depot on the register and
will continue working toward that goal.

      Properties are nominated to the register by the state historic
preservation officer in each state. Once nominated, the decision is reviewed
by a board of professionals in the fields of American history, architecture,
archaeology, and related fields.

      The State Historical Society of Iowa website states each nomination
must be reviewed at least three times before being forwarded to the Keeper
of the National Register.

      Because the process requires extensive research and is costly,
Clermont opted to seek a grant to fund the nomination.

      The register is the nation's official list of cultural resources
worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act
of 1966, it is part of a program to coordinate private and public efforts to
identify, evaluate, and protect historic and archaeological resources.

      A survey by R.C. Vogel and Associates from July 1990 to June 1991
determined which Clermont sites qualified for the register and deserve
preservation. Thirty-nine sites were reviewed and several were found to be
historically significant including the old depot and other brick structures.

      Swenson, also a member of the Clermont Historical Society, said the
survey's recommendation will weigh heavily on the nomination decision of the
state historical society.

      Clermont might be one of the few such small communities in Iowa to
have the distinction of boasting six sites on the National Register of
Historici Sites.

      Currently six sites in historic Clermont are listed on the register
including: Montauk (1973), Union Sunday School (1974), Larrabee School
(1995), Riegel Blacksmith Shop (1995), Abraham Lincoln Statue and Park
(2000), Church of the Savior Episcopal Church and D.B. Henderson Statue

      Before becoming governor in 1886, William Larrabee was a member a
committee that met with officers of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and
Minnesota railroad companies in Cedar Rapids in 1871 trying to establish a
branch line from Cedar Rapids to Postville.

      During his two terms in office, Governor Larrabee was heavily involved
with regulation of railroads.

      With aid provided by tax and subscription, construction began in
November 1871 after surveys were completed.

      The first train arrived in Clermont September 5, 1872 and two days
later the first train on the Milwaukee division arrived. In 1903 the
railroad was conveyed to the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railway.

      The Rock Island Railroad Depot still stands at the corner of Mill
Street, opposite Lincoln Park. Constructed of red brick fired in a local
brick yard, the depot is rectangular and 1-1/2 stories in height under a
gable roof.

      Interesting features include the radiating brick voussoirs with
keystones, the lighter brick quoins, and the distinctive roof shape. The
building is one of only two in Clermont that sit square with the world.

      Swenson said the freight trains stopping in Clermont frequently hauled
brick, coal, lumber, and livestock.

      A brickworks established by Christian Miller at the turn of the
century used machinery to fashion millions of red and white brick, hollow
tile, and concrete block. The bricks were then shipped by train until the

      During the Grand Reunion of Iowa's Twelfth Infantry in June 1903,
special trains and cars ran to Clermont to help move the 6,000-8,000 people
who attended the event.

      According to a 1903 Postville Herald article recently discovered by
the Grand Reunion Centennial Committee, fare for a round trip from Postville
paid by individuals attending the festivities - was 40 cents.

      Vernon Oakland, another local historian, said trains passed through
Clermont for exactly 100 years. The last train to make the trip through
Clermont did so in 1972.                   The old rail line was abandoned
but has since become the subject of an ongoing recreation trail discussion.

      Valley Cooperative manager Kent Appler said the co-op currently has no
plans for the depot though many options have been discussed.             He
said since the property is privately owned, the board will probably have to
approve of the nomination to the national register. He noted the board
tabled discussion related to the depot until more information can be
obtained about the co-op's responsibilities for owning a national register

The Railroad Station Historical Society maintains a database of existing
railroad structures at: http://www.rrshs.org