A piece of Stanley’s past


By Joseph Back

The Stanley depot is gone now, being taken down by Westaby Trucking of Stanley over Tuesday and Wednesday of last week. Westaby Trucking also took down 211 East Maple Street and Wundrow’s Auto Repair after both buildings were damaged in the December 15, 2021 tornado.

Before it went down over the two days on July 19 and 20 of this year, the local Stanley train depot served many generations of area residents in getting from here to there via the railroad.

See DEMOLITION, page 10

The longstanding train depot at First and Emery was torn down over two days last week as storm cleanup continues for affected buildings. To see inside the depot before it fell, turn to page 11. Photo by Joseph Back. DEMOLITION

From Page 1

It was not the first such depot, as between 1889 and the 1906 fire another structure stood on what is now a parking lot across from Marine Credit Union. The de pot take down, which saddened many area residents, was made necessary as a result of the December 15, 2021 tornado and the fact that the city received zero FEMA dollars for the mid-winter freak weather event, not meeting damage thresholds as such.

Complicating any attempt at salvage was the fact that the railroad right-of-way runs down the center of the now passed local heirloom, from east to west.

Now demolished at the south end of Emery Street, the brick and mortar Stanley depot came into being after the fire of May 18, 1906, when ovcials of the Wisconsin Central Railway made known their sympathy with the residents of Stanley and plans to construct a proper depot where there had formerly been but “the meanest shack,” to quote local newspaper description from May 12, 1906. That was to change soon. Featured in real estate and building notes from May 26, 1906 was the following: “The following was received on Saturday by Station Agent F. W. Benjamin of the W. C. Railway and to use a popular slang expression it “helps some” to revise the drooping spirits of Stanley people.

‘Please see the Mayor at once and express to him and the citizens of Stanley the sympathy of the ov cials of the Wisconsin Central Railway in their loss and say to them that we will start the erection of a depot at Stanley at once.

E. F. Potter’” Built later that year by the Chippewa Falls Construction Company for a reported $6300 contract ($207,417.70 after inflation per the site in2013dollars. com), the Stanley depot was made to last, with brick walls several inches thick.

Included in the 1906 plans for a 26 by 69 foot building were a lobby measuring 24 by 34 feet, ladies waiting room to measure 16 by 16 with “retiring rooms,” along with a smoking room and baggage room each 12 by 16 feet. Facing the tracks meanwhile was a sixteen foot platform planned to extend from the depot down to Broadway Street, then called Willard. An arched doorway and driveway approach would front First Avenue, then called Bartlett. And there were secondary benefits.

“It is expected that was has hitherto been a marsh between Willard and Emery Street will be improve and made one of the beauty spots of the city,” the report from exactly 116 years ago on July 28, 1906 made known.

Those ‘beauty spots remain, even if the depot itself is gone.

Closed to travc some 54 years ago, the iconic peace sign was unable to be salvaged, though attempt was made. Left to until the last minute, the sign crum- bled as the interlocked walls flexed under pressure. The fall of the peace sign Wednesday did not come before one individual came and admitted they had in fact painted the sign many years back in what might be deemed youthful indiscretion.

“He came and admitted that he did it,” public works operator in charge John Hoel said regarding a man who had showed up Tuesday morning to say he had painted the sign (originally a Class A misdemean- or) some five decades ago, and which had stood the test of time long after the three-year statute of limitations had run out with regard to prosecution for the same.

On the minds of many, meanwhile, was not longago vandalism, but saving “as many bricks as possible,” as one resident put it. Represented in those bricks, were memories. A sort of community center in its day, the depot also saw ou soldiers and herald ed their return, as following the Great War of 1914 – 1918.

“Sunday morning saw the happiest crowd that has gathered in this city for many, many days, for now no shadow hangs over the hearts of the people of Stanley,” the front page from May 30, 1919 reported of the return of the Stanley soldiers on the 107th Ammunition Train, arriving home Sunday at noon, the crowd “chuck full of pent up emotion” since bidding the same goodbye some two years past.

“Headed by Captain John Hanley, eight boys from the Stanley Country returned Sunday from eighteen months spent in France, where they helped to win for the 32nd Division the reputation for being one of the best units of the American Expeditionary Forces,” the newspaper noted. Among the returned were “Ser- geants Louis Larson, Roy Rothen, John Gauney and Charles Parker (Boyd); Corporals Leo Veeser, Clar –

ence Nelson (Boyd), Victor Olson and William Pod vin,” along with George Carpenter, being attached to the company.

One who did not return was George Solie, dying in France. Captain Hanley gave credit to the town.

“It is the old town that deserves the credit for what we did,” Hanley said. “The way she backed us up was the one thing that kept up our courage when we were in the thick of things. We were all proud to say that we came from Stanley, and we were proud of the people back home, who were making just as many sacrifices as we were, and maybe more.”

Also in events at First and Emery over the years were vacation trip sendous and even weddings, as one Stanley depot agent was also a justice of the peace. Witnesses were taken from friends or those present at the time. But over the years change could not be avoided, as first the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, followed with Charles Lindbergh and Howard Hughes each made their contributions to putting a new mode of transportation front and center in the public imagination: air travel! When former Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower became president and signed into law plans for an interstate system based on what he had seen in Germany and before as a career army man out west, it was the start of a new era, in which planes and automobiles—not trains—would take center stage. A light was installed at the Soo depot for those wishing to board trains to flag down aid, while the end was still to come.

“Soo Line Depot to Close on Friday,” the headlines screamed from April 18,1968, as it was made known that the one-time hub would close ‘for good’ on Friday.

Used for storage at the time of demolition, the Stanley train depot lasted another 54 years, or just under the 62 it was in operation.

The site of the former Stanley train depot on Wednesday July 20, 2022, towards evening. Photo by Joseph Back.

A flagpole at the Stanley City Hall at 353 South Broadway incorporates brick from the Stanley depot. Photo by Joseph Back.

July 27, 2022