When Allen Johnson of rural Watkins went to Belle Plaine to buy a pair of boots, he wound up buying a century-old railroad depot.
He didn’t take possession until the next year, but that trip began his 15-year ownership of the magnificent 180-foot long brick Chicago & North Western railroad depot in Belle Plaine, Iowa. (See today’s Ramblin’ column in The Gazette.)
Now, after putting a lot of work into the depot, including cleaning the brick, replacing a lot of the mortar, repairing about 25 windows and planting dozens of ornamental pear, crab, sugar maple, redbud and ironwood trees, Allen is ready to sell.
His advertisement in The Gazette classifieds says “Will consider offers or trade for land. any and all offers may be refused. Owner financing available.”
But, he knows there might not be any profit with the condition of the interior at the moment. It’s just that, after 15 years working to make sure the exterior of the building is intact, Allen thinks it might just be time to let someone else with a specific use in mind take over the interior work.
Sure, the plaster is peeling and the depot looks pretty rough inside since it hasn’t had any heat or air conditioning for years, but it’s still solid inside. The floors are intact, the 21 steps from the main floor to the upstairs are in great shape and this mammouth building isn’t going anywhere.
“It looks pretty nasty, but it does have potential,” Allen says. “It’s like a one-of-a-kind deal. I just need to round up the right person.”
If the right person would like to talk to Allan about the depot, he can be reached at (319) 227-7346.
The depot sits on a lot 377 feet long so there’s plenty of room for parking if someone would like to use the depot as a commercial property.
The depot is divided into three sections.
The main depot on the west end that’s 80 feet long and 2 1/2 stories tall is the centerpiece with the fancier brickwork and decorative exterior features.
The former district offices and freight office is the 60-foot long, two story section on the east end of the complex.
Connecting the two is the 40-foot long platform that was originally just covered with the roof. At a later time the walls were erected to enclose it.
“This was a big railroad town,” Allen says. “It had a roundhouse and everything. It’s too bad they didn’t keep that roundhouse.”
He doesn’t want the same thing to happen to the depot.