Whitewater Historical Society’s renovated museum now open
WHITEWATER More than a century ago, the Whitewater passenger depot was the place where people bought tickets and boarded trains for Chicago, St. Paul and Milwaukee.
It was where travelers from across the Midwest stopped on their journeys along the Milwaukee Road railway.
Those days of train travel are over in Whitewater.
But after a lengthy rehabilitation, the 122-year-old building is now a place where residents can learn about their town’s history and the railroad that helped build it.
The Whitewater Historical Society observed the grand opening of its new museum at the end of April with a celebration in the red and yellow brick building.
It marks the end of a $400,000 project at the old passenger depot and the beginning of the building’s new life as a home of artifacts and exhibits chronicling the city’s history.
“It’s just fantastic to be in a historic building and one that represents such a major component of 19th and early 20th century life,” museum curator Carol Cartwright said. “This building was really the center of the community. … It’s important to be here.”
Getting to this point wasn’t easy, though.
The last passenger trains left Whitewater in the 1950s, and for a couple of decades the depot housed a garden and animal feed store.
The historical society has owned the building since 1973, and Cartwright said members realized in 2004 it needed renovation work.
“It’s been a long haul,” Cartwright said.
The process included securing a $320,000 federal grant, getting $40,000 from the city of Whitewater and raising another $40,000 from donors, she said.
Work started in July and finished during the winter, Cartwright said.
The society wanted to make a historically accurate restoration of the building, she said, and relied on its original plans to guide some parts of the work.
That included adding a wall that had been removed, fixing the old ticket window (which now looks into the museum’s office) and rehabbing the former “Gentlemen’s Smoking Room.”
It’s now home to the museum’s rotating exhibit, which until November is “Whitewater and the Railroad.”
The only relic of the building’s history as a feed store is an ad for “Kent’s Pig Nuggets” embedded in the room’s wooden floor.
Workers also cleared out the building’s stonewalled basement, which the society is now using as a climate-controlled storage area for artifacts, Cartwright said.
The museum is open 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays, but Cart-wright said the society is working toward getting it open more often during the summer.