The Mackinaw Illinois Traction System Depot (1909-1953)
The electric Interurban rumbled past many villages and cities for over 46 years. Mackinaw, one of the earliest villages on the line, was incorporated in 1827; nine years after Illinois became a state. It was originally a major Native American crossroad that later became a stagecoach junction. The Traction System was the 3rd railroad built through Mackinaw, but soon became very busy. Ten to fourteen trains passed the Mackinaw Traction Depot each way daily. Many times there was standing room only. In 1945 the system handled 336,296 cars of revenue freight and 10,348,063 revenue passengers. This was approximately 1,000 freight cars and 30,000 passengers per day. The train made easy travel possible from north to south as well as east to west but most importantly it provided short distance intercity travel. One advantage for those living near the Traction was that they could simply stand along the track and hail the passing train. Many used the train daily to commute to their places of employment.
The Illinois Traction’s Mackinaw Depot is one of nine Spanish style depots on the system that has been restored, and is in use today. In 1977 the Mackinaw Historic Society recognized the importance that the Traction and Depot had been and wanted to preserve it for future generations. They persevered to have it entered on the National Register of Historic Sites in 1978. Hence, the Depot became significant as a remarkable example of the Interurban period of our local communities, state, and nation. The Historic Society and volunteers of the community started the process of cleanup and restoration of the Depot. The tile roof had deteriorated, and a search for a matching roof began. Local truckers and volunteers drove to Iowa where matching roof tile was found, so that it could be used to restore the original roof. After repairing the roof, the Historic Society was unable to come up with the funds and manpower to finish the restoration and The Depot was abandoned again.
In 1998, Beth Wiegand was looking for a larger building to house her business. Beth, who had always loved old architecture, became interested in The Depot. After persuading her dad and family to help with the restoration, she purchased The Depot. After being abandoned for 45 years, the building was deteriorating with the windows and doors boarded up. She had a challenge ahead. After many long days and nights, with help from family, friends, contractors, and volunteers, restoration of the main building and construction of a work building (with kitchen, restrooms, work, and storage areas), The Depot was finally ready for ribbon cutting on October 23, 1998.
The Depot now houses Garden Gate Floral and The Tea Room at the Depot. Garden Gate Floral has a large selection of gifts, decor, silk florals and arrangements. The Tea Room at the Depot offers a unique dining experience for all. Located across the road in a charming cottage, you’ll find BethAnne. BethAnne is a shopping destination for fashion, jewelry, and accessories.
The Depot is a popular destination for people all over the Midwest.
The Illinois Terminal Railroad:
Illinois Traction System - Mackinaw Depot Wiki:
National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form:
Illinois Traction Society: