$ 4 million renovation, Des Moines depot expansion completed
A year-long renovation of the East Des Moines union depot is complete, as has the construction of a 7,500 square foot event center.
The owners of the East Des Moines union depot were unsure of what to expect when construction workers began removing sand and rubble from the floor of the historic building which, for more than 60 years, was used for cold storage.
Before clearing 3 1/2 feet of rubble from the building originally built as a train depot, a 6-inch concrete cap had to be removed, said Tim Waddell, chairman of the Des Moines Heritage Trust. The Heritage Trust purchased the deposit in 2017, located at 120 E. Fifth St. in Des Moines.
“We didn’t know what we were going to find under all of this,” Waddell said. “When they started vacuuming and digging out all that sand… they discovered these beautiful original brick floors from the 1909 deport. They were all there. It was a huge surprise.
The year-long, $ 4 million project included the restoration of the depot and the addition of a 7,500 square foot event center with a capacity of 400 guests. Sustainability features include rain gardens and organic plains. The event center includes energy efficient lighting and wiring for future solar installations.
The 112-year-old depot was built by William H. Brereton for the Des Moines Union Railway, Wabash Railroad, Chicago Great Western Railway and Milwaukee Railway, according to information provided by the Heritage Trust.
The building operated as a depot until the 1950s when it was sold and converted into a cold storage facility. The building was unused for several years and was in danger of being razed before the Heritage Trust bought it.
The East Des Moines Union Depot is in an area known as the Market District, a former industrial area roughly between East Court Avenue, Scott Avenue, Southeast Fourteenth Street and the Des Moines River which is experiencing a wave of redevelopment. .
Proponents of preserving historically significant buildings advocate restoring buildings rather than tearing them down, Waddell said.
“This is who we are,” he said. “The buildings we have built in the past are all part of this region’s culture and history.”
When people travel to Europe, many say they wish the United States had preserved its centuries-old buildings, Waddell said.
“We had some really fantastic buildings here, but they’re gone,” he said. “That’s why it’s important to save what we still can – like the repository – so that the next generation can see what has been done in the past.”
The building will host board meetings and other events organized by heritage and ethnic heritage organizations in the Des Moines area. The event center is available for hire for private gatherings.
Future plans at the site include the digital enhancement of historic buildings, streetcars, historic districts, university campuses and endangered buildings in Des Moines.
The public can visit the renovated depot and the new event center from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.
3 1/2 feet of rubble and a 6 inch concrete cap.
A photo of the East Des Moines union depot before its renovation.