Downtown Hastings is filled with historic buildings. NEWS 5's Dennis Kellogg takes us inside one that served as the welcoming point for visitors to the city for decades. This may be the Showcase lighting store and Amtrak station now, but if you listen closely, you can almost hear a train whistle from a century ago.
The Burlington Depot welcomed visitors to Hastings starting in 1902 when it was built after being designed by Omaha architect Thomas Kimball.
"It was really a center of a lot of activity," said Jeremy Daniels.
Jeremy Daniels, who retired from Dutton–Lainson, the company that remodeled the depot, said the building was the hub of Hastings.
"I think there were 47 passenger trains and 87 freight trains that came through Hastings every day, which is amazing," said Daniels.
Those trains carried with them a part of the city's history. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and Harry Truman all stopped here.
"Whistlestops were very popular when presidential candidates ran for office and they would go cross–country and make stops," said Daniels.
Buffalo Bill Cody and legendary Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne also stood in the depot, as did hundreds of young soldiers waiting to go to war.
"The troops would stand on the platform and form up and then when the train would come in they would all load the train and head off to their training camps before they went overseas," Daniels said.
Despite the modern look, there is still plenty of history around this old building. For instance, this indentation in the cement is there for a reason. The ticket cage used to be here and this is where people used to wait to board the train.
"Thousands of shoes shuffled over the floors of the depot in the last century. And the wear on the building started to show," said Daniels.
When we took the building over, though, it was in pretty bad shape.
The remodeling started with hard work, including shoveling coal out of the basement.
"Once the planning was done, it was about a two–year construction project with the new roof and all the outside was repainted and restored. All the bricks were relaid, picked up and turned over," said Daniels.
And throughout the project, the goal was to keep the building as historically accurate as possible.
"In fact, we even scraped down the wood paint chips and went down to the base color and had it computerized so we were able to reformulate the original colors of the building," said Daniels.
The outside lanterns were put back on, and the clock was restored, so time no longer stood still. In the end, a building that took $70,000 to build, took more than a million dollars to renovate. Jeremy said it has been worth it for the businesses that now call it home and the city of Hastings that has a part of its history restored.
"It truly is one of the architectural jewels of Hastings of course and probably of the state," said Daniels.
And now, the light is once again shining bright inside the Burlington Depot.
Improved air service and the interstate system led to a decline in rail traffic at the Burlington Depot in the seventies. The Depot was appointed to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
Original airdate: March 23, 2010.