The Whitewater Historical Society has used the historic Whitewater Passenger Depot as a local history museum since 1974. A few alterations were made at that time, but except for a new heating and air conditioning system and a new roof installed a few years ago, little work has been done on the building since its construction date of 1890-91. About six years ago, it became apparent that renovation of the building was necessary for comfort, safety, and to meet modern museum needs and building codes.
In 2006, then City of Whitewater Manager Kevin Brunner approached the Whitewater Historical Society about supporting the city applying for a federal Transportation Enhancement Grant to renovate the depot, a historic transportation-related building. The city and the society co-sponsored a building assessment report that included potential costs for a renovation. After the report was prepared, the city, with assistance from the society, submitted a 2007-2009 grant request for $400,000. This grant just barely missed being selected so it was decided that in 2008, the city would submit the grant request again.
In the meantime, thanks, in part, to a generous donation from the Fort Community Credit Union, the city was able to have a new roof installed. This meant that the application for the 2009-2011 grant request could stay at about the same amount, allowing for inflation. In September of 2008, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation announced that Whitewater’s Passenger Depot project was approved.
One of the requirements of the grant was that the local community provide 20% of the grant cost, or $80,000. As the city and the society had renewed its agreement to jointly fund major projects at the depot, the city was responsible for $40,000 and the Whitewater Historical Society had to raise $40,000. Thanks to the generosity of both individual and business donors, the society was able to raise its $40,000 by 2010. The society also raised an additional $20,000+ to provide new equipment, display materials, and technology to upgrade the reinstallation of the exhibits for the museum. The society also received a generous grant to work on a school curriculum related to museum visits by local elementary school classes.
The Whitewater Historical Society was poised to enter a new era at the depot museum and, anticipating a 2009 or 2010 start for the project, began to pack up the museum collections for storage. It was an opportunity to complete an updated inventory of all the collections and create a computer data base for museum use. Unfortunately, the bureaucracy moves slowly when it comes to transportation-related projects, and it took over a year just to get the authorization to hire an architect to prepare renovation plans and specifications.
The architecture firm, Isthmus Architecture, of Madison, had completed a number of depot projects and turned out to be the winning firm. They worked efficiently, but there were many delays as paperwork with the Department of Transportation continued to move very slowly. Finally, in late 2011, the city was authorized to bid the project, but all the bids came in well over the money available. Some adjustments to the specifications were made and the project was re-bid in early 2012. This time, enough bids came in under budget that a bid could be accepted and the project was finally underway.
In July of 2012, workers began the construction process. The first part of the process was to work on the basement, tuck-pointing the foundation walls, getting rid of the storm sewer, installing a fire-proof ceiling, and cutting in an interior staircase. Gradually the project began on the exterior and first floor. Exterior walls and details were tuck-pointed and the roof overhang was repaired and painted. Windows and doors were removed for restoration and renovation of wall, ceiling, and floor surfaces was started.
Over the next four months, a new handicapped accessible bathroom was constructed, the interior staircase was completed to the basement, the fireplace was restored, the station agent’s office wall was restored, the station agent’s oak shelf was rebuilt and the original ticket window details restored, and historic-era paint colors were added to the walls and ceilings. The final restoration details included returning restored doors and windows, installing wooden storm windows, and refinishing the floors in the basement and first floor. By the end of November of 2012, the restoration was completed.
The following series of photographs illustrate the steps taken in the restoration effort. Each image is dated and shows a particular step in the renovation process.
Before Restoration Photos
During Restoration Photo Series
After Restoration Photo Series