- Posted April 18, 2012 by
Bismarck, North Dakota
Historic Train Depot, Survived Flood, Now Slated for Wrecking Ball
By Bismarckman | Posted 17 hours ago | Bismarck, North Dakota
Can the Historic Wilton Train Depot be Saved from Destruction?
By Mark Armstrong
April 17, 2012
Bismarck, ND…Unless something changes, next week, on Tuesday April 24, 2012, the City of Bismarck will ask contractors for bids to demolish the historic Wilton Train Depot that was damaged by last summer’s record floodwaters. It would be an inglorious end to the old wooden structure that was built in 1911 by the Northern Pacific Railroad. From 1911 until the late 1940’s it served as the place people in Wilton waited for trains to take to Bismarck, 26 miles south. The depot was moved to the Missouri riverfront from Wilton in 1987 and most recently served as a popular riverfront restaurant and lounge. During last year’s mega-flood of the Missouri River it was swamped. The once popular riverfront restaurant, lounge, ice cream shop and jump off spot for the Lewis and Clark riverboat received damage, mostly to the structures like the deck, kitchen and awning that was attached to it. By most accounts the old depot remains relatively intact, its foundation severely impacted by the flood.
Back in the late 1980’s the old train depot was moved south to Bismarck as the centerpiece of Bismarck's Centennial Beach. The river access was dedicated as part of North Dakota's 100th birthday in 1989. This area of the river is where steam-powered paddle and stern wheelers once pulled up to the river shoreline in the early days of Bismarck in the late 19th century and before the dams made the journey impossible by the 1950’s.. This riverfront area is still the Port of Bismarck. In 1987, the mayor at the time, Marlan "Hawk" Haakenson set up a place for a riverboat named the Farwest to dock nearby. Riverboat passengers used the historic Wilton Train Depot as the ticket counter/ice cream shop. Later it became the only eatery and lounge on the river in Bismarck known as Meriwhether’s, the first name of Lewis, from Lewis and Clark fame.
Many of us of have special memories at "Captain Meriwether's Restaurant and Lounge." It was the only place on this side of the river where you could grab a bite or a drink, sit inside or outside and watch the river go by. Its loss would be felt by many involved in the original project to locate it here.
Now, unless some benefactor, developer or private investor comes forward, we may lose entirely this historic structure. Time is running out for someone to step forward before next week’s Bismarck City Commission meeting. At the meeting the Commission will authorize a request-for-proposal to demolish the historic building. If they approve moving forward with the low bid, the historic structure would be demolished.